“Cancel” those requests – VA officials in Los Angeles destroyed medical records to eliminate the backlog

“Cancel” those requests – VA officials in Los Angeles destroyed medical records to eliminate the backlog

Oliver Mitchell’s claims are outrageous and shocking.

He was a whistleblower that alerted the Inspector General’s office in 2011 that officials in the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System were canceling exam requests from veterans, and then destroying the medical record of those exam requests in order to get rid of a huge backlog within the radiology department of the VA.  From the Daily Caller, who interviewed Mitchell:

“We just didn’t have the resources to conduct all of those exams. Basically we would get about 3,000 requests a month for [medical] exams, but in a 30-day period we only had the resources to do about 800. That rolls over to the next month and creates a backlog,” Mitchell said. ”It’s a numbers thing. The waiting list counts against the hospitals efficiency. The longer the veteran waits for an exam that counts against the hospital as far as productivity is concerned.”

By 2008, some patients were “waiting six to nine months for an exam” and VA “didn’t know how to address the issue,” Mitchell said.

VA Greater Los Angeles Radiology department chief Dr. Suzie El-Saden initiated an “ongoing discussion in the department” to cancel exam requests and destroy veterans’ medical files so that no record of the exam requests would exist, thus reducing the backlog, Mitchell said.

And here is the audio (now available on YouTube) that Mitchell provided.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XnvhdV2DD0g

The above conversation took place in November 2008, and in March 2009 the exam requests began to be canceled – all to make the backlog go away.  When tbe exam request was canceled, the medical record that documented the request for a radiology exam was also deleted, thus destroying a part of a veterans’s medical record that he or she had even requested such a test.  The VA  radiology department chief, Dr. El-Saden, according to Mitchell, is the person who initiated this purge.  The excuse was that veterans who had waited this long had probably gotten care elsewhere, moved, or even possibly died – giving the excuse to purging the backlog.  While some of that may be true, Mitchell’s claim is that these exam requests were being canceled wholesale, and not selectively to weed out those who truly no longer needed a radiology exam.

Mitchell blew the whistle in January 2011.  He was fired by the VA in March 2011, because, according to him, the IG’s office simply turned over his documentation to the VA instead of doing their own investigation, and he says that the documents he provided listed about “a thousand names” and went “all the way back to 1997.”  Currently, he has a lawsuit filed for wrongful termination.

It is sickening to see the health of veterans – men and women who have served this country and earned this care by their service – so callously treated because the VA got overwhelmed and simply wanted to make their numbers look better.  This story needs a LOT more sunlight.  The IG’s office didn’t seem to care.  Oliver Mitchell is going it alone in wrongful termination proceedings.  And the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System made no comment to the Daily Caller.

The VA is national health care on a smaller scale than Obamacare.  Think about that.  If one department can simply toss exam requests and delete items out of a medical record to make themselves look better, who is to say that this won’t happen someday in a civilian hospital, with the government standing over the shoulder of a department telling them to get those numbers down?  Do you really want to be served by a health care system that only sees you as a number on a page, and not a patient with a problem?

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