- Associated Press - Thursday, September 4, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Two former employees of the Minneapolis VA Medical Center allege they were pressured to falsify patient appointment dates and medical records to hide delays, a television station reported.

In a report that aired Wednesday night, the ex-employees told KARE-TV (http://kare11.tv/1AbbArg ) that in some cases, they were told to falsify medical records by writing that patients had declined follow-up treatments when, in reality, they say the veterans had never been contacted.

The former VA workers fear that patients’ lives may be at risk because they say some cases involved suspected colon cancer.

“Some of them were getting missed altogether,” said Heather Rossbach, one of the former VA workers.

Until recently, Rossbach was a medical support assistant and Letty Alonso was a supervisor in the Minneapolis VA’s gastroenterology department.

“I feel like they need to be exposed for what’s really going on,” Alonso said.

The women contend they were fired after trying to alert top VA administrators about the problems, and have outlined their allegations in a complaint to the VA’s Office of Inspector General.

Minneapolis VA Health Care System director Patrick Kelly told KARE he’s not aware of any secret wait lists at the facility, and he does not believe such lists exist.

“None have been uncovered,” Kelly said.

In August, government investigators reported they found no proof that delays in care caused any deaths at a Veterans Affairs hospital in Phoenix. But investigators say they found widespread problems that the Veterans Affairs Department is promising to fix.

Kelly said in a statement to The Associated Press on Thursday that the quality of care in the Minneapolis VA’s gastrointestinal clinic is “excellent.”

“Veterans should not deter from coming to the Minneapolis VA based on the allegations of former employees,” Kelly’s statement said.

U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., said Thursday he has sent a letter to federal agencies to confirm they are investigating the former workers’ claims.

Walz, a member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said in a statement the allegations are “extremely troubling” and run counter to what local leadership at the VA told him.

“If these allegations prove true, those responsible must and will be held accountable,” Walz’ statement said. “No employee should feel pressured to falsify data or fear retaliation if they do the right thing and report wrongdoing to their superiors.”

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