Fewer Medical Errors Are Investigated at VA Hospitals Despite Upsurge in Issues
Given the high level of ongoing concern about medical errors and long waits at Department of Veteran Affairs hospitals, I was concerned to read a report revealing that VA hospitals have been doing less than previously to identify and prevent medical errors.
The Department of Veterans Affairs, which runs a nationwide system of clinics and hospitals that cared for a staggering 5.8 million veterans last year, “is doing less, not more to identify what went wrong to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” noted the Washington Post.
The claim followed a recent report from the Government Accountability Office that revealed the number of investigations of adverse events for medical errors fell 18 percent from 2010 to 2014.
That was notwithstanding a barrage of negative publicity about the VA. For instance, Hampton VA Medical Center in Hampton Roads has experienced numerous problems related to long waiting lists.
In the words of the Washington Post, “the examinations shrunk just as medical errors grew 7 percent over these years, a jump that roughly coincided with 14 percent growth in the number of veterans getting medical care through VA’s system.”
It’s not clear from the statistics whether the decline in investigations means fewer errors are being reported or that mistakes are on the rise but are not serious enough to warrant increased scrutiny.
The commentary in The Post was far from reassuring. It said VA officials told auditors they had no idea why the VA is doing fewer investigations of medical errors. The National Center for Patient Safety, the office in the Veterans Health Administration that’s responsible for monitoring investigations of medical errors said it “has limited awareness of what hospitals are doing to address the root causes of adverse events,” the report stated.
It said the “lack of complete information may result in missed opportunities to identify needed systemwide patient safety improvements.”
Last month a report in USA TODAY suggested a recruiting problem may be fueling the issues at VA hospitals. It stated one in three jobs are vacant at eight of the nation’s regional Veterans Affairs health care systems, leaving veterans waiting weeks to get care.
Across the country one in six positions — nearly 41,000 — for critical intake workers, doctors, nurses and assistants remained unfilled as of mid July, 2014 “in part due to complex hiring procedures and poor recruitment,” according to the staunchest critics of the nation’s network of 139 hospitals and clinics that treat veterans.
The vacancy data was obtained by USA TODAY through the Freedom of Information Act. It offers one of the first glimpses at at how serious staffing issues are at some VA hospitals and clinics. It also demonstrated the fact that at many locations, open positions are driving up appointment wait times. USA TODAY’s analysis found that even a 1 percent increase in job vacancies contributes to more appointments being pushed past a month-long wait.
If you have been injured by an error at a VA hospital or another medical provider, you may have grounds to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. Call Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers at 757.455.0077 or see Cooperhurley.com.