Arkansas VA hospital finds more cases handled by pathologist impaired on job

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A review by officials at Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks in Fayetteville, Ark., found a pathologist who worked while impaired also worked on 96 cases as a private consultant before his hiring, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

A review of 33,902 VA cases found 3,007 errors or missed diagnoses (8.9 percent error rate), system director Kelvin Parks said at a public meeting Jan. 28. Twelve veterans who saw the impaired pathologist had errors on their pathology tests and have died, but the system hasn't determined whether those deaths were the result of missed diagnoses, Mr. Parks said.

The 8.9 percent error rate is significantly higher than the standard in pathology practice, figures show. The normal error rate for pathology results nationwide is 0.7 percent,  Mr. Parks said. Few of the errors are believed to have caused the patients lasting harm, Mr. Parks said.

Pathologists outside the Ozarks system conducted the review, which started in June.

The discovery of the 96 additional cases is one reason the system's review was not complete by the Dec. 31 target date, Mr. Parks said. All but 76 cases had been reviewed as of Jan. 25, he said.

The pathology review is one of three, Mr. Parks said. The other two reviews are being conducted by the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

One is a clinical and administrative review to determine how the high rate of errors to occurred unnoticed and the other is a criminal investigation, Mr. Parks said.

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