VA to Investigate Washington, Oregon Healthcare Facilities

By Tom Bacon

Fallout from the Veterans Affairs Department healthcare scheduling scandal is rumbling through the Spokane VA hospital and eight other facilities in Washington and Oregon. As a result of a system-wide audit of VA practices in scheduling patients, the Veterans Health Administration has flagged nine health facilities in Washington and Oregon - including Spokane - for further investigation.

Auditors also found anomalies in the VA Puget Sound hospital, the Walla Walla medical center, the Portland Oregon central and Vancouver campuses, Roseburg Oregon, and the Chehalis and Wenatchee outpatient clinics.

The audit report said that any suspected willful misconduct is being reported to the VA Inspector General. Overall the report found that a complicated scheduling process resulted in confusion among clerks and even front-line supervisors, and that a 14-day performance target for waiting times for new appointments resulted in  some supervisors faking records to hide delays.

In Spokane as of May 15th, more than 22,000 patient visits had been scheduled, with 21,800 of those accomplished within 30 days or less. But that left 659 veterans, three percent, waiting more than a month for treatment.

More than 5,800 veterans were kept waiting more than 30 days in the Portland facility, and 3,400 in the Puget Sound area. Both Oregon senators blasted the VA. Senator Jeff Merkley said "the wait times rare far worse than what local leadership has told us, which raises substantial questions about whether we can believe anything we hear".

Ron Wyden said "I am appalled by the report that falsified records forced more than 6,600 Oregon veterans to endure unconscionable waiting times". He added, "Those who cooked the books or lied to Congress should be fired immediately and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law".
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