VA Hospitals Face Scrutiny Nationwide

In recent years, VA hospitals have been the subject of a great deal of controversy and scrutiny. In 2014, the Veterans’ Affairs healthcare facilities made headlines because of their inability to provide services for a large number patients, and many had to wait months before they could see doctors in what became known as the “waiting-list scandal.”

In 2015, VA hospitals have done well to cope with the influx of veterans that need appointments with doctors and surgeons. However, reports have shown that the increased quantity of patients seen has caused the average quality of care to decrease.

In a Seattle Times article, Tim Kuncl, former member of the US Coast Guard, shared his misadventures with the Puget Sound VA Health Care System.

Kuncl suffered from a rare pilon fracture in 2011 as he was putting Christmas decorations up on his home in Washington State. Three weeks later, he went to his local VA hospital and received surgery in which doctors inserted several pins, screws, and plates in order to fix his shattered bones. His pain persisted well past his expected recovery time, though, and he ended up having to get two additional surgeries done on the same leg, each one resulting in increased pain and discomfort.

Eventually, Kuncl decided to forego the VA system and get treatment from a private organization, who found that the previous surgeries had irreversibly damaged his leg, and concluded that amputation was the only path left to take. He has since become an advocate for the improvement of the VA healthcare systems.

The unfortunate case of Tim Kuncl is following a trend of increased malpractice. According to the Seattle Times, wrongful-death claims against the VA healthcare systems throughout much of 2014 climbed 43%. The Government Accountability Office has placed Vetrans Health Administration on the “high risk agency” list by virtue of its issues in oversight and training of new employees, according to the Seattle Times. The VA hospitals are treating more patients, but the number of erroneous cases has gone up rather alarmingly.

In other news, the VA healthcare system in Tomah, Wisconsin has become the subject of investigation as whistleblowers revealed that facilities have been overprescribing narcotic drugs, the StarTribune reports. In response, the VA has implemented new computer software that helps to monitor the allocation of prescription medicines. The program is called the “opioid therapy risk report,” and currently over 2,000 VA doctors nationwide now have access to the software.

With luck, the complaints against the VA healthcare systems that are piling up will reduce very soon, as the government has decided to increase its funding. The Puget Sound VA’s budget is $7.4 million larger in 2015 than it was in 2014, and will be $14.9 million larger in 2016, the Seattle Times reports. The additional funding should result in faster treatment and higher quality of care for our nation’s veterans.

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