VA OIG Investigates Allegations of Secret Waiting List, Falsified Records in Phoenix: 3 Key Findings

Veterans Health Administration hospitals across the nation are under investigation after allegations surfaced of treatment delays resulting in patient deaths and leaders falsifying records.

Allegations of secret patient waiting lists and falsified appointment records have been made against VA hospitals in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Illinois and Wyoming. The HHS Office of Inspector General began investigating allegations of a secret patient wait list at Phoenix VA Health Care System this past December. It was alleged hospital leaders created the secret list to hide the actual amount of time patients waited for appointments and that 40 patients died while waiting for care. Furthermore, Phoenix VA leaders were accused of collecting bonuses for reducing patient wait times based after manipulating patient wait time data.

Yesterday, the VA Office of Inspector General released a preliminary report on its ongoing review of the Phoenix Health Care System in response to allegations of gross mismanagement of resources and criminal misconduct by VA senior hospital leadership. Here are three key findings from the report.

1. As of April 22, the OIG had identified 1,700 veterans who were waiting for a primary care appointment but were not on the Phoenix HCS electronic waiting list. According to the report, "these veterans were and continue to be at risk of being lost or forgotten in Phoenix HCS' convoluted scheduling practices. As a result, these veterans may never obtain their requested or required primary care appointment."

2. According to the OIG, Phoenix HCS leadership understated the time new patients waited for primary care appointments in their fiscal year 2013 performance appraisal accomplishments, which is one of the factors used to determine awards and salary increases. The OIG reviewed a statistical sample of 226 new patient primary care appointments completed at Phoenix HCS. Data reported by Phoenix HCS showed these 226 patients waited an average of 24 days for their primary appointment and only 43 percent waited more than 14 days. However, the OIG review found the veterans waited an average of 115 days, with approximately 84 percent waiting more than 14 days.

3. Although the OIG is still analyzing interviews with schedulers at Phoenix HCS, the report states, "it appears that a significant number of schedulers are manipulating the waiting times of established patients by using the wrong desired date of care." Rather than using a date based on when the provider wants to see the veteran or when the veteran wants an appointment, schedulers deviate from VHA scheduling policies by determining when the next available appointment is through the system and indicating that as the purported desired date. This creates a false zero-day wait time, according to the report.

For more information, real the full preliminary report here.

More Articles on VA Hospitals:
VA Knew Of Patient Wait Time Data Manipulation in 2010 
10 Things to Know About the Alleged VA Cover-Up


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