VA officials grilled on Capitol Hill regarding hospital backlog

Published: Apr. 9, 2014 at 9:04 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 19, 2014 at 9:04 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WIS) - In November, we showed you how 44-year-old Barry Coates' delay in care allowed his cancerous tumor to grow for more than a year. Wednesday he told Congress he's to start new chemotherapy as spots once again have spread. He believes this could have been prevented.

"I learned she could have done a CT exam," he said. "She could have done a CT scan. She could have done a laproscope exam which would have found the tumor which was only five inches in the area."

Tough questions were fired at VHA's Assistant Deputy to the Undersecretary for Health and Clinical Operations.

"This gentleman did not receive the standard of care, he did receive an apology?" asked Rep. Dan Benishek, a Republican from Michigan who also is a doctor. "It's hard for me to understand when I asked Dr. Petezel 'What are you doing about this kind of stuff?'"

"I'm angry as well sir," said Dr. Thomas Lynch of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, "I share your anger. I have been working for the last year since I have been here at the central office to put together the tools that give us what we need to manage our system in a fashion so we can identify where there are delays.

"Did anybody lose their job?" Lynch was asked.

"I can't answer that specifically sir," he responded.  

The VA pointed to a new tool at Dorn, to ensure patients are getting timely consults.

"It gives the facility, it gives the network and it gives the VA Central office eyes on delays and helps us ask critical questions of the facility in terms of should they be using fee basis care." said Lynch.

But Dorn reduced fee-based care.

"I believe the facility felt at the time they had the resources to solve the problem.  I think in retrospect they did not," said Lynch.

The Government Accountability Office testified the VHA's consult numbers were unreliable and as many as two million consults nationwide that should have happened in 90 days, didn't.  Committee members promised to continue to push for accountability.

"If this happened in the civilian world where negligence was proven time and time again, we would be in the streets with signs saying shut them down," said Rep. Jackie Walorski, a Republican from Indiana. "It's an outrage is what it is. This is an outrage."

In previous hearings, Dr. Petzel suggested three administrators at Dorn faced disciplinary action over the delay in care.  We have asked repeatedly who those administrators were, whether they received bonuses during that time, and whether they're still employed at Dorn.  The VA has not responded to our requests.

During Wednesday's hearing, Barry Coates named four doctors. Members of Congress questioned whether the initial doctor who never asked for a consult with a GI physician in his case was ever reprimanded because, as several pointed out, that should be the standard of care. The VA promised to look into the issue.

Follow WIS:   

Copyright 2014 WIS. All rights reserved.