Care at one Veterans Affairs hospital was so disorganized that officials didn’t inform some patients they were scheduled for surgery, while doctors planned for surgeries they knew would never take place.
Staff at the William Jennings Bryan Dorn hospital in Columbia, S.C., often cancelled surgeries rather than work overtime, leading to delays for patients, the Inspector General, the VA’s internal watchdog, found.
Investigators also found several instances of contaminated surgical equipment, but they could not tell if this contributed to infections.
And when staff were unable to contact patients scheduled for surgery, they simply cancelled the appointments. Some surgeries were cancelled the day of, because nurses found patients hadn’t been given the proper pre-operation treatment. Meanwhile, doctors were often scheduling surgeries they knew would never happen so they could tackle unplanned “add-on” patients.
The hospital faced more serious allegations as well, such as keeping patients under anesthesia longer than necessary in order to train medical students. But the IG said it was unable to find any proof of this happening.
One of the largest problems, the IG said, was a high turnover rate in personnel.
“In the past 3 years, there have been five Medical Center Directors, three Associate Medical Center Directors, eight Chiefs of Medicine (COMs), nine Chiefs of Mental Health, and five Quality Managers,” the watchdog said.
The hospital is also short-handed on its nursing staff, the IG said.
VA officials and hospital leaders said they agree with the IG’s assessment and are working to fix the problems.
The hospital cares for about 410,000 veterans throughout South Carolina.