- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 25, 2015

In the wake of backlash against the Department of Veterans Affairs for not cracking down hard enough on employee accountability, their watchdog group released three new reports this week that demonstrate continuing problems at VA hospitals.

The VA’s inspector general’s office released reports on hospitals in West Virginia and Nevada that showed evidence of mismanagement and lack of staff certification and appropriate training for important medical procedures.

The first report, which was released Monday and evaluated the Clarksburg, West Virginia, VA hospital, found that “none of the employees on the medical-surgical and intensive care units and in the Emergency Department had 12-lead electrocardiogram competency assessment and validation documentation completed.”

None of the employees in the intensive care unit had the necessary evaluations and training to care for post-anesthesia patients either, the report said.

The report also found that four of the six independent licensed practitioners working with the VA also had privileges to do emergency airway management procedures that they should not have been able to do because they did not have the “appropriate training.”

The second report, released Tuesday, evaluated the Southern Nevada and North Las Vegas health care system and found that “the facility did not use special medication labeling for look-alike and sound-alike medications,” which could lead to staff mixing them up.

The inspector general’s office also found that none of the 18 independent licensed practitioners working with the VA system had training to conduct emergency airway management procedures but had the privileges to do so. Fourteen of those 18 practitioners also kept folders which “contained non-allowed information.”

The third evaluation also looked at the the southern Nevada health care system and found that staff were behind in taking necessary training and evaluations to keep their VA certifications up to date. The facility also failed to offer HIV testing to patients as part of a routine lab testing system 50 percent of the time, and for 40 percent of patients, the hospital did not formal consent to do the HIV testing.

Patients were also not getting enough support for serious problems like alcohol dependency, the report concluded. Four out of five patients who came into the system for alcohol dependence problems were not offered further treatment beyond what they came in for.

The Nevada system is also plagued by long wait times for patients that are higher than the national Veterans Health Administration averages, the average being 26.5 days for an appointment and Nevada’s system being 29.2 days.

The VA has been criticized in recent weeks for demoting two senior executives instead of firing them for a scheme they orchestrated to transfer to new posts. As part of this scheme, they also took nearly $400,000 in relocation bonuses the IG’s office concluded they didn’t deserve, but the VA has not made any moves to recoup the money.

The beleaguered agency has been under intense scrutiny since an IG report was released last year saying that 40 patients at a Phoenix, Arizona hospital died while languishing on a secret waiting list manipulated by employees to make wait times seem shorter than they were. The scandal led to former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki’s resignation and calls for reform from lawmakers in Congress.

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