Fla. gover­nor de­mands probe of pos­si­ble VA hospi­tal deaths

Modern Healthcare - - REGIONAL NEWS - —Vir­gil Dick­son

Florida Gov. Rick Scott last Tues­day asked El­iz­a­beth Dudek, sec­re­tary of the state’s Agency for Health Care Ad­min­is­tra­tion, to in­ves­ti­gate U.S. Depart­ment of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs hos­pi­tals in the state be­cause of sus­pi­cions that a se­ries of pre­ventable deaths may have oc­curred there.

Two weeks ago, news broke that five vet­er­ans who were cancer pa­tients died and nine oth­ers suf­fered in­jury be­cause of de­lays in di­ag­no­sis or treat­ment at VA hos­pi­tals. How­ever, it’s un­clear in which spe­cific fa­cil­i­ties these in­ci­dents took place; what is known is that they oc­curred at a VA Sun­shine Health­care Net­work lo­ca­tion. That VA di­vi­sion has hos­pi­tals in Florida, Ge­or­gia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Vir­gin Is­lands.

The VA has re­fused to pro­vide de­tails and as a re­sult, Scott—who is fac­ing a tough re-elec­tion bat­tle in Novem­ber—is call­ing for ac­tion.

“Which of these in­ci­dents hap­pened at which vet­er­ans’ hos­pi­tals in Florida? ... How can the federal govern­ment in­crease trans­parency on the qual­ity of care pro­vided to vet­er­ans so tax­pay­ers can en­sure these fed­er­ally funded hos­pi­tals are pro­vid­ing ex­cel­lent care for our na­tion’s he­roes?” Scott asked in his let­ter to Dudek.

Of­fi­cials at nu­mer­ous vet­er­ans’ or­ga­ni­za­tions were sur­prised by the call to in­ves­ti­gate VA hos­pi­tals.

“All my deal­ings with vet­er­ans’ doc­tors there have been fab­u­lous. They’ve gone the ex­tra mile to take care of me,” said Joel Mark­man, a Viet­nam vet­eran who runs the not-for-for profit Florida Vet­er­ans As­sis­tance As­so­ci­a­tion. Other or­ga­ni­za­tions, in­clud­ing Florida Vet­er­ans for Com­mon Sense and the state Vet­er­ans of For­eign Wars or­ga­ni­za­tion, claim they’ve heard no com­plaints about care at Florida VA hos­pi­tals.

De­tails con­cern­ing when the in­ves­ti­ga­tion would be­gin and how long it would last could not be re­leased due to state pro­ce­dure, ac­cord­ing to She­l­isha Cole­man, a spokes­woman for the Florida Agency for Health Care Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from sev­eral VA hos­pi­tals in the state de­clined to com­ment and in­stead de­ferred to a state­ment re­leased by the VA, which claimed that when an in­ci­dent oc­curs, it ag­gres­sively iden­ti­fies and cor­rects it and works to pre­vent additional risks.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has asked a state health of­fi­cial to con­duct the VA probe.

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