VHA Failed to Address Provider Quality and Safety Concerns
A recent Government Accountability Office report (GAO-18-26) accuses the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) staffers of failing to detail potentially dangerous doctors to appropriate authorities. This prompted the House Veterans Affairs, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations to hold an oversight hearing on the report. Chairman of the subcommittee, Congressman Bergman (Mich.) said the VA has approximately 40,000 providers in 170 medical centers treating 9 million veterans a year, therefore, ensuring the VA provides safe quality care is vital.
Dr. Gerard Cox, Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Organizational Excellence for the VA stated, “We are taking three major steps to improve clinical competency and reporting by improving oversight to ensure that no settlement agreement waives VA’s ability to report providers to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) or the State Licensing Boards (SLB), reporting more clinical occupations to the NPDB, and improving the timeliness of reporting.” These steps come as a direct result of the GAO report that criticized the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) officials for what they see as systemic failures in the agency’s documentation and investigation of complaints against clinical care providers.
The GAO report found that some complaints were ignored until investigators raised concerns. In other cases it took months or even years for some of the complaints to be investigated. “Refusing or failing to adhere to reporting requirements puts not just veterans, but all patients across the country, at risk of receiving substandard health care,” said Bergman.
The GAO report recommends the VHA address these issues. The VHA indicated it will implement all of the recommendations. Dr. Cox stated that Congressional oversight is important in maintaining a standard of excellence that the VA strives to meet.