Delays in getting 4,500 appointments at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta resulted in some patients being harmed, according to an internal VA memo last year uncovered by the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.
The committee wrote Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki on Thursday seeking more information about what happened to Augusta VA management as a result and specifically seeking more information on former Augusta VA Director Rebecca Wiley. The committee wants to see her performance reviews as far back as 2007 as well as any bonuses or disciplinary action she received. The committee is also asking for performance reviews, bonuses and disciplinary actions for other Augusta VA management and a current list of appointment backlogs.
A VA spokesman did not return a call or e-mail late Thursday afternoon seeking comment.
According to the October 2012 VA internal memo, the VA regional office in Atlanta began a review of colonoscopies at the Augusta VA after discovering a similar problem in getting appointments at another of its facilities. The review turned up a backlog of 4,503 consults, including 340 where it was needed to make a diagnosis and 1,304 that were needed for surveillance. That prompted the VA to look back through two years of its cancer registries to look at cases where a gastrointestinal cancer occurred.
It found 53 that got an additional review and of those five resulted in an “institutional disclosure.”
In a note on a letter to Shinseki, the House Committee quotes a VA handbook that says institutional disclosures to a patient or family are done when “an adverse event has occurred during the patient’s care that resulted in or is reasonably expected to result in death or serious injury.”
The internal memo does not say what happened to those five patients. In its letter, the House Committee said it has confirmed that six veterans died due to delayed colorectal screening at the VA in Columbia. Wiley was director of that VA for a time as well.