Veterans who work to serve and protect our nation’s citizens deserve the highest quality medical care. Unfortunately, VA hospitals are often short-staffed and overwhelmed. Overworked physicians with less-than-optimal medical equipment and supplies may offer negligent care, or worse, create life-threatening mistakes.
Veteran victims of medical malpractice have the right to collect money for pain, suffering and other losses. Cases of VA hospital medical malpractice could very well come out of the Washington DC VA Medical Center.
A recent report from the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Office of the Inspector General (VAOIG) has highlighted concerns regarding potentially unsafe practices at the hospital. Staffing shortages, medical equipment issues and unsanitary supply storage are just a few of the problems that are putting patients at risk.
DC Veterans Hospital Places Patients at Unnecessary Risk
After a confidential insider reported issues with the Washington DC VA Medical Center’s medical equipment and supplies on March 21, 2017, the VAOIG found “a number of serious and troubling deficiencies at the Medical Center that place patients at unnecessary risk,” including:
- No effective system to ensure staff did not use recalled equipment or supplies on patients
- Critical staffing shortages (no Associate Medical Center Director, Associate Director for Patient Care Services, Chief of Human Resources, Chief of the Business Office, Chief of Mental Health, Chief of Integrated Health and Wellness or Chief of Radiology)
- Lacking critical medical supplies (testing equipment used to prevent burns on laparoscopy and endoscopy patients, dialysis bloodlines and needles, nasal cannulas used to deliver oxygen, bone cements used in knee replacement surgeries, alcohol pads, wound dressings, clip appliers used to close off blood vessels during surgery, vascular patches, Doppler probes, compression devices used to prevent blood clots during surgery).
- Surgeon used expired surgical equipment on a patient during a surgical procedure.
- Expired sterility indicator strips found in sterile processing.
- Storage areas used to store sterile equipment and supplies mixed clean and dirty supplies, lacked environmental detectors, were shared as office space and lacked systems to reduce cross-contamination.
Rarely does the VAOIG release inspection findings prior to a completed investigation, however, VA inspector general, Michael Missal, stated “we believed it appropriate to publish this Interim Summary Report given the exigent nature of the issues we have preliminarily identified and the lack of confidence in VHA adequately and timely fixing the root causes of these issues.”
DC VA Medical Center Risks Federal Government Funds
In addition to the DC veterans hospital placing patients at unnecessary risk, the Medical Center is placing a large amount of Federal government assets at unnecessary risk. The OIG obtained documentation that showed items worth a total of $154,876,092 had not been inventoried or accounted for during the past 12 months.
In addition, the VA staff referenced an approximately 100,000 square-foot warehouse full of non-inventoried materials and supplies. Documents provided to OIG estimated the value of these supplies to be in excess of $15 million, although the amount has not been confirmed. OIG is concerned about additional losses to the Federal Government as the offsite warehouse lease is expires on April 30, 2017.
DC VA Hospital Replaces Brian Hawkins as Hospital Director
In its report, the VAOIG listed recommendations for immediate implementation, “to ensure all veterans receive appropriate care, and that financial losses to the Federal Government are minimized.” The recommendations included that the Washington DC VA Medical Center take immediate action to:
- Ensure that necessary supplies and equipment are available in patient care areas
- Implement an effective inventory management system
- Ensure that current stock does not include recalled equipment or supplies
- Ensure the environmental integrity of sterile storage areas
- Create an inventory and ensure orderly movement of goods and supplies from the warehouse to minimize loss to the Government
- Expedite hiring of certain permanent positions
In response to the report, the DC VA hospital removed Dr. Brian A. Hawkins from his position as hospital director, replacing him with VA policy advisor Lawrence Connell. Upon his removal, the VA assigned Mr. Hawkins to temporary administrative duties.
Veteran Victims of VA Medical Malpractice May Be Entitled To Compensation
Veterans who are victims of VA medical negligence are eligible to collect money damages for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, disfigurement, disability, emotional distress and other issues.
If you are a veteran who has suffered harm due to negligent treatment at a VA hospital, our experienced veteran’s medical malpractice attorneys help clients receive money damages. We also help family members of veterans lost to wrongful death collect damages and compensation. Contact us at 888.878.9350 or E-mail US to arrange a free consultation to discuss your case.