The Department of Veterans Affairs has confirmed the death of another cancer patient and says that the condition of one more veteran worsened because of delays in gastrointestinal consultations in its Southeast region, which includes hospitals in Augusta and Columbia.
Amir Farooqi, spokesman for the VA’s Southeast network, said in a statement that the district’s headquarters in Atlanta is still investigating which of the region’s nine hospitals in Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama is responsible.
“Veterans Health Administration is working aggressively to validate the (network’s) remaining findings,” he said. “This ongoing national level review includes all consults over more than a 10-year period.”
So far, nine deaths and 18 “adverse events” have been tied to Augusta and Columbia VA medical centers for management failing to schedule more than 8,600 diagnostic, screening and surveillance endoscopies, as requested by primary care physicians, according to memos.
Farooqi said that based on preliminary findings from the Southeast region’s initial system-wide review, 10 deaths and 19 adverse effects have been discovered because of the delays.
“Any adverse incident for a Veteran within our care is one too many,” Farooqi said in a statement. “When an incident occurs in our system we aggressively identify, correct and work to prevent additional risks. We conduct a thorough review to understand what happened, prevent similar incidents in the future, and share lessons learned across the system.”
Farooqi said when an adverse event occurs in VA health care, administrators contact the patient or their representative to notify them of their rights and recourse.
“VHA is committed to a process of full and open disclosure to Veterans and their families,” he said.
After identifying gastrointestinal issues at the Charlie Norwood and William Jennings Bryan Dorn VA medical centers in Augusta and Columbia in 2012, respectively, Farooqi said administrators initiated a national review of consults across the federal health care system.
Last year, the VA provided 25 million consults for patients, which included approximately 1.3 million gastrointestinal (GI) consults.
As a result of the consult delay issue the veterans administration discovered at the Augusta and Columbia medical centers, the agency has redesigned the consult process and developed oversight mechanisms to better monitor appointment times.
“The Department of Veterans Affairs cares deeply for every veteran we are privileged to serve,” Farooqi said. “Our goal is to provide the best quality, safe and effective health care our Veterans have earned and deserve. We take seriously any issue that occurs at any one of the more than 1,700 VA health care facilities across the country.”