The largest integrated health care system in the United States is the Veterans Health Administration. Considering the fact that veterans literally put their lives on the line for their country, the government owes all veterans access to quality health care services. However, a recent report is showing that the care at these facilities is not always what it should be and patients are the ones paying the price.
According to the USA Today report, for years the VA has been concealing the questionable records of medical staff. Concealing records mean that these same medical professionals are able to go on to work at other facilities without anyone knowing of previous mistakes or misdeeds.
Data reports to concealing and false references
The news organization looked at hundreds of records from the VA. Here are some key findings:
- Concealing records: In some cases, doctors or other staff were fired due to a mistake or misdeed, but the VA agreed to either conceal the mistake from the person’s record, or give them a neutral or positive reference to potential future employers.
- Failing to report: The VA does not always report known issues to the National Practitioner Data Bank or state licensing agencies. This means future employers will not know about the concerns and problem doctors and staff can continue to work with patients.
Patients are the ones at risk
The problem with these findings is two-fold. Not only are veterans receiving substandard care at facilities due to problem doctors and nurses, but also these same doctors and nurses are then able to go on and work at other facilities and put more patients at risk.
In an attempt to better protect patients, the National Practitioner Data Bank was created in 1986. The point behind this bank was to stop problem doctors from relocating to others states to continue to practice and potentially injure more patients. With the VA though, federal law only requires the agency to report doctors who makes mistakes – which means thousands of others, including podiatrists and physician assistants – are off the hook if caught, as they do not fall under the legal requirements of reporting.
Taking the next step
Patients who are hurt due to a medical mistake – whether they are at the VA or any other facility — may still have legal recourse. While the rules around reporting and some of the questionable tactics of the VA are up for debate, patients still have rights as long as they act within the statute of limitations – which is why it is best to take action right away.
What do you think though? Should there be rules in place around concealing records? What should the VA be reporting to the data bank? Is the VA living up to standards in terms of veteran care?