Monday, May 12, 2014

Harlingen, TX VA Center Denied or Delayed Cancer Tests As Cost-Cutting Move, Says Whistleblower

The Veterans Administration is going to have more questions to answer after a whistle-blower has made allegations about the medical center located in the town I grew up in (DC Examiner).

Dr. Richard Krugman, former associate chief of staff at the Veterans Affairs health care system based in Harlingen, Texas, said his boss implemented a policy in 2010 that colonoscopies would only be approved if the patient tested positive in three successive screenings for bloody stools.

“By the time that you do the colonoscopies on these patients, you went from a stage 1 to a stage 4 [colorectal cancer], which is basically inoperable,” said Krugman.

“That was done because of dollars and cents. For the VA, they have to be bleeding out of their rectum before they would authorize a colonoscopy. That was the standard of care,” he said.

Since the Harlingen VA health center couldn't do colonoscopies at that time, all referrals had to go to local private providers.

The cost-cutting order came from Dr. Raul Aguilar, chief of staff at the VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System, Krugman said.

As many as 15,000 patients who should have gotten the colonoscopies either did not get them or were examined only after long and needless delays, Krugman said.

That estimate is based on the demographics and total number of veterans treated in the Texas Valley network, about 40,000.

Many likely died, Krugman said. But, since there is no VA hospital in the area, their final days would have been spent in a private hospital or at home, where they would not appear in VA statistics, he said.

Another directive was issued in January 2011 requiring that patient referrals to private providers be cut by 10 percent.

That order was sent by Jeffery Milligan, then director of the Texas Valley health network, according to an internal email obtained by the Examiner.

Krugman also told the Examiner that an office secretary deleted about 1,800 orders for medical tests or other services to eliminate a backlog that threatened a certification inspection from an outside group.

Krugman reported his allegations to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel in a whistleblower complaint filed in July 2011.

Krugman was put on administrative leave for a year after he complained to higher-ranking VA officials that patients' lives and health were being put in jeopardy by ill-conceived policies and a poorly designed surgical center. Though he was still being paid, he was not allowed to do his job.

He was fired in May 2012, but is appealing to the federal Merit System Protection Board, claiming his termination was in retaliation for being a whistleblower.

Krugman's allegations are consistent with deficiencies at other veterans' hospitals across the country identified by the agency's inspector general, the Government Accountability Office, congressional investigations and media reports.

VA has acknowledged 23 patients with gastrointestinal cancers died while in its care after long delays in receiving colonoscopies or similar tests.

An internal investigation by VA acknowledged that some of Krugman's allegation were true, but downplayed any harm to patients.
Oh yeah, there's no harm. Never mind that veterans have been found to have languished and died at a Phoenix VA system.

Texas Senator John Cornyn said:
“This report of rationing of potentially life-saving care for our veterans is outrageous and absolutely unacceptable, and the Administration’s response to this ongoing scandal has been tepid at best. Our veterans deserve the highest level of treatment, and it is becoming clear that leadership at the VA has been more concerned with the appearance of care rather than how they provided it.”
MSNBC's resident Obama-butt kisser F. Chuck Todd tried to use the VA hospital deaths as a bigger scandal than the brewing lies over Benghazi.

Yes and no it is.

Benghazi involved the President and his Secretary of State lying to the American people about a terrorist attack in order to save his electoral chances two months from the Presidential election.  But just like Benghazi, our veterans, to whom this government made a promise to them, were left behind by this government, particularly the Obama Regime.

Even more so, if this kind of cost-cutting goes on with the government agency overseeing the medical care for those who have served this nation, than what does that tell you about what's coming down the road with Obamacare?

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