Another VA cover-up? This time, it's in Tampa

Jonathan Kaupanger
July 09, 2018 - 12:43 pm

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Veterans Affairs is accused of yet another cover-up, this time involving hundreds of canceled radiology exams.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, the allegations were made by four radiology technicians who work at the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa, Florida.  They state that the appointments were canceled without following VA’s safety guidelines, and that the hospital then tried to cover it up.  It should be noted that all four radiology technicians have filed a sexual harassment and intimidation lawsuit against the Medial Center. 

According to court documents, the radiology technicians say that VA guidelines were not followed and hospital officials would turn off the printers that produced reports about cancellations as a way to cover things up.

Plaintiffs in the case say this affects veteran care at Haley, but can't say if veterans were harmed by having their appointments canceled.  One of the technicians however, said that she reached out to a patient who was overdue for an ultrasound test, but learned that the patient had died.  She didn’t know the cause of death.

This is not the first time VA has run into trouble with radiology orders.  In 2015, VA’s South Texas Veterans Health Care System’s Imaging Service was found to have 17,790 pending orders that were past a clinically indicated date.  A year later, an investigation into VA’s W.G. Hefner VA Medical Center in Salisbury, NC, found more than 3,300 patients waiting for radiology exams and some waiting since 2007.

VA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) started a nationwide audit of radiology practices at VA earlier this year and expects to finish by January 2019.  OIG spokesman, Michael Nacincik said that the investigation is to determine if VA “processes radiology requests in a timely manner and appropriately manages canceled requests.”

In 2017, VA announced a plan to reduce a backlog of more than 300,000 radiology exams that were older than 60 days.  This plan had safety guidelines that said either a radiologist or the ordering physician must figure out if the exams were still needed, before canceling them.  At the time, VA’s Press Secretary, Curt Cashour said, “Moving forward, this process will ensure all orders in the system are active and clinically viable, thus eliminating the clutter of obsolete test requests in the VHA computer system.”

This policy, according to VA, reduced the national backlog by 71 percent.  At Haley as of September 2017 the backlog of 700 overdue orders as down to 438.

We reached out to VA for a comment.  VA's spokesperson said, "These issues have been raised as part of ongoing personal employment litigation between four radiology technicians and VA. Because of that and on advice of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, we will not respond to questions bearing on allegations that have not yet been adjudicated. However, we are confident the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital has processes and procedures in place to provide the best care possible for our patients and note that previous reviews into these matters found no basis for these claims."

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