I confess I let the VA health system story pass without comment. To my discredit, I assumed it was but another in a too-long series about shabby care for the country’s military veterans.
Take this PBS story from 2007:
“The Veterans Affairs Department, which is chronically under- funded and under-resourced, and is already crying out for help in the country.”
“Jon Town is a war hero. And he has to beg, plead, scrap and claw to get results. And ultimately the only way he’s going to get results is because he’s gone to the press and he’s shamed the people in power into some sort of action.”
Or the series in the Washington Post from the same time, during the Bush administration.
But I was wrong. This is far worse:
An outraged Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., slammed the “systemic” problems plaguing Veterans Affairs health care centers around the country on Saturday, saying the Obama administration has “failed” to respond to the mismanagement and delays that have been linked to dozens of deaths nationwide.
“Decent care for our veterans is among the most solemn obligations a nation incurs, and we will be judged by God and history by how well we discharge ours,” McCain said in the weekly Republican address. “That’s why I’m so deeply troubled by the recent allegations of gross mismanagement, fraud and neglect at a growing number of Veterans Administration medical centers across the country.”
“It’s been more than a month since allegations that some 40 veterans died while waiting for care at the Phoenix VA were first made public,” he said. “To date, the Obama Administration has failed to respond in an effective manner. This has created in our veterans’ community a crisis of confidence toward the VA – the very agency that was established to care for them.”
The Phoenix facility reportedly worked to disguise patients’ long wait times by creating a secret waiting list and later destroying the evidence. Reports suggest the same practice of using secret waiting lists may be happening elsewhere across the country.
One rogue office is bad enough—say, an IRS outpost in Cincinnati, to pluck an example. But multiple reports of secret waiting lists begins to sound like a conspiracy. Who and how high are the next questions.
Germaine Clarno is a VA social worker and employee representative in Chicago. She alleges there are multiple secret waiting lists of veterans kept at the Hines VA Medical Center.
Asked which divisions of the hospital kept the secret waiting lists, Clarno says, “Employees are coming to me from all over the hospital, from outpatient, inpatient, surgery, radiology.”
Clarno says the purpose of the lists was “to make numbers look better for their own recognition and for bonuses.”
The VA grants bonuses to executives and doctors, partly based on short wait times. Whistleblowers — including Dr. Sam Foote, who revealed the scandal in Phoenix, where up to 40 veterans may have died — believe bonuses give an incentive to conceal delays in care.
Clarno says it is easier for bosses to claim short wait times — and collect the reward — than it is to explain why the target can’t be met. She says she believes that throughout the VA, people are faking the wait time data in order to receive bonuses.
But you know why I think I overlooked this story?
It sounds so much like other stories of government-run health care, I assumed I already had covered it:
Nurses, midwives and other carers battered by David Cameron’s assault on NHS wages are night furious at revelations their bosses’ pay packets have risen by 36%.
Senior managers pocketed £166million in bonuses and other extras last year – as the Tory-led Coalition slashes £20billion in costs from the beleaguered service.
That is up 36% from £122million the year before.
The rise, on top of their annual salaries, could have paid for an extra 4,000 nurses, who have suffered a 1% cut.
See what I mean?
An investigation into the deaths of five cancer patients has found the surgeons involved were ‘dysfunctional’ and ‘secretive’.
Keyhole surgery for stomach and throat cancer was only stopped at Maidstone Hospital in Kent last July, despite whistleblowers raising concerns about patient care three years ago.
At least our American victims os socialized medicine have been trained to defend themselves, unlike others I could name:
A sex attack victim yesterday hit out at the ‘disgusting’ contrast between the care given to a Latvian who tried to rape her and her own treatment by the authorities.
While Rolands Brize has cost taxpayers an estimated £150,000 including psychiatric help at a private hospital, his victim has suffered delays getting NHS treatment for the scars inflicted during the terrifying assault.
The 23-year-old graphic designer has also been distressed by having to wait 13 months to see Brize jailed since he pleaded guilty to attempted rape because sentencing was repeatedly adjourned.
She is currently in an ‘NHS queue’ awaiting treatment.
She is also furious that UK authorities were helpless to stop Brize moving here despite him having been sent to a mental hospital in Latvia for burning down his family home.
Calling for him to be deported, she added: ‘Personally I feel he should never have been allowed into this country in the first place. There are seemingly no controls about stopping criminals. I feel as if the victim has been forgotten. It’s appalling.’
Don’t get me started in immigration. We’ll revisit the VA disgrace over the coming days and weeks. We apologize for having missed it for so long.