Audit reveals rampant medical supply waste, mismanagement at Atlanta VA hospital

The Atlanta VA Medical Center in Decatur, Ga., has had to throw out thousands of dollars in medical supplies due to poor management of them, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported this week. 

The hospital discovered $122,000 worth of expired heart stents on its shelves in December, according to internal documents reviewed by the publication. A year earlier, hospital auditors discovered $52,000 in expired stents. 

A 2019 federal audit of the hospital warned mismanagement of its medical supplies was contributing to waste, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. The record-keeping at the hospital was so bad, it was impossible for auditors to track which implants were being used, the publication said. 

Gene Schneller, PhD, a professor of supply chain management at Arizona State University, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that being unable to track the implants could jeopardize patient safety if an expired stent were implanted. 

The auditors also found the hospital's employees failed to keep critical inventory records for implants, and at times logistics supervisors told workers not to reconcile or complete inventories, according to the April 14 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution report. The auditors said they couldn't accurately estimate the total amount of inventory lost because of mismanagement because the records were in such bad shape. 

Auditors found other supply management issues, such as physicians ordering five implantable hearing aids for $3,340 each for one patient, but only using one device and not returning the others, the publication reported. In another case, an oral surgeon used only eight of 20 dental implants ordered for a patient. 

The Atlanta VA Health Care System said in statement sent to Becker's that it "takes very seriously our mission to provide top quality care to our veterans in a safe and secure environment. We concur with all recommendations outlined in the [Office of Inspector General] report and have implemented several actions to correct the findings. Our commitment to the health and well-being of our veterans is unwavering."

The system said it has created a workgroup to review the implant process from ordering to implantation, established a surgical workgroup to strenghten processes in the operating room and implemented software to track the movement of implants throughout the facility. 

"The increased oversight provided by this approach will mitigate the process issues and ensure that patients are tracked though the continuum of care," the health system told Becker's

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Editor's note: This article was updated April 16 at 3:13 p.m. CT to include an additional statement from the health system. 

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