The Charlie Norwood Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Augusta confirmed Wednesday that three of its cancer patients died needlessly in the past two years because of long waits and delayed care in the hospital’s gastrointestinal program.
The hospital declined to release the names of the victims; however, the deaths have reportedly been tied to the medical center’s former director, Rebecca Wiley.
During her time in Augusta from February 2007 to December 2010, Wiley’s mismanagement of staff and medical procedures led to five patients sustaining injury or death and more than 4,500 gastrointestinal endoscopy consults going unresolved, according to a 2012 report from the VA Inspector General’s Office.
Pete Scovill, spokesman for the Charlie Norwood VA, would not go into detail Wednesday about how the three gastrointestinal cancer victims died.
“These brave service men fell victim to cancer that may have been avoided had they received specialized screenings during the early stages of the disease,” Scovill said in e-mailed statement. “We have worked diligently to eliminate the roadblocks that delayed these all important screenings and would like to share with you and our community our improvements and system changes that may keep other comrade at arms from falling victim to this insidious scourge, cancer.”
According to a report broadcast Wednesday by CNN and citing government documents, six deaths at the Williams Jennings Bryan Dorn Veterans Medical Center in Columbia occurred under Wiley’s administration as well.
The health care administrator was named director of the South Carolina hospital in November 2011, almost a year after she left Augusta and the city’s VA center lost full accreditation.
During her time in Columbia, the VA’s Inspector General found facilities operating below minimum staffing requirements, an absence of quality management oversight, and delays in testing and traumatic brain injury care.
Additionally, the VA found that mismanagement during some of Wiley’s tenure in Columbia contributed to a backlog of nearly 4,000 gastrointestinal appointment delays, which in turn led to 19 instances of serious injury or death for veteran patients.
In light of the allegations, the House of Representative’s Committee on Veterans Affairs in late September requested copies of all current accounts of appointment backlogs and patient injuries. They also asked for any records reflecting performance reviews, pay bonuses and disciplinary actions issued since 2002 to those who oversee patient safety in Augusta.
Curt Cashour, the committee’s communications director, said Wednesday the request remains unfulfilled.