Plain Dealer Examines ‘Dangerous’ VA System
The Cleveland Plain Dealer yesterday began a series detailing its investigation of the nation's Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics, in which it "discovered that the largest full-service health system in the country is operating under many rules that would not be allowed elsewhere, sometimes with disastrous results." Due to a shortage of full-time doctors, veterans often wait lengthy periods of time before they can see a physician, and then often receive inadequate care. VA hospitals and clinics serve roughly four million veterans, many of whom are uninsured "with no alternative for the mostly free care." The Plain Dealer reports that studies have shown that VA hospitals offer "dangerous, second class care," with VA death rates "twice what is seen in community hospitals." However, the Plain Dealer reports that the federal Office of Inspector General "has so few investigators that it can't begin to properly handle the 15,000 complaints it gets each year" from those in VA care (Mazzolini, Cleveland Plain Dealer, 1/28). Today's Plain-Dealer depicts the "lax" regulations governing physician supervision of doctors in training, or residents, who constitute the "backbone of the VA health system." Unlike public or private hospitals, physicians are allowed to supervise residents over the phone. While VA hospitals say this practice advances the goal of resident training, patients say it compromises the quality of care they receive. The Plain Dealer also reports that many part-time VA doctors have "abused" the system of flexible scheduling by seeing private patients at the time they were being paid to be at a Veterans hospital (Mazzolini, Cleveland Plain Dealer, 1/29). To read the stories in this series, go to http://www.cleveland.com/indepth/va/index.ssf.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.