The inspector general for the Veterans Administration has not yet officially attributed deaths at the Phoenix VA hospital and other VA facilities to delays in care, but an internal VA report found a link between 23 deaths and wait times for care.
According to the Weekly Standard, a VA report shows that delays occurred at 27 VA hospitals, with the worst record at the William Jennings Bryan Dorn veterans’ hospital in Columbia, S.C., where there were 20 cases of delays and six deaths. “Delays in endoscopy screenings for potential gastrointestinal cancer in 76 veterans treated at Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals are linked to 23 deaths, most of them three to four years ago, according to the VA,” USA Today reported last month.
At a Wednesday press conference, President Obama said, “it is important to recognize that the wait times generally … were folks who may have had chronic conditions, were seeking their next appointment, but may have already received service. It was not necessarily a situation where they were calling for emergency services.” But, the president said this “does not excuse the fact that the wait times in general are too long,” and we must find out “what exactly happened.”
CNN has reported that, in an effort to conceal the lengthy waiting times, the Phoenix VA hospital used two patient appointment lists. Dr. Sam Foote, who worked in the VA system for 24 years, described the “official” list, which showed appointments being scheduled within 14 to 30 days, as a “sham.” The actual waiting list was kept secret. A veteran’s name remained on the secret list until he or she had an appointment that was within 14 days, thus giving the appearance that waiting times had improved, when in fact they had not. Internal emails confirm that some managers at the VA knew about the practice, CNN reports.