Action News reports on the ongoing investigation into the deaths of several veterans at local VA Hospitals as a result of delayed diagnoses. The Department of Veterans Affairs released a detailed review of the deaths this week. It found that 76 patients or families were told a patient has been harmed or may have been harmed during care. Officials said 23 of those patients died, including two in the North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System. œAll of us at North Florida/South Georgia are deeply saddened by the loss of any veteran at our health care locations, said Tom Wisnieski, director of the system. œAnd we offer our sincerest condolences to veterans affected by delays in GI care and families who’s lost a loved one. The patients were being treated for serious gastrointestinal issues like colon cancer. Wisnieski said that of 158 cases in our region in 2010-2011, four had a delayed diagnosis. Two eventually died. Chief of Staff Dr. Bradley Bender reached out to each of those families, providing what are known as institutional disclosures to each of them. œWe explained what we feel was done incorrectly with their care, Dr. Bender said. œWe apologized to them, offered to answer any questions or concerns they have.” In response to the findings, the system has added staffers at its hospitals and clinic, including 12 registered nurses. Procedures were also changed to ensure that even if patients are referred elsewhere for treatment, a VA representative keeps track of their care. The North Florida/South Georgia system is the largest in the VA, according to officials. It served more than 100,000 patients last fiscal year. Members of Congress put pressure on VA officials for months to release the findings. Some said more changes need to be made. œHow could this happen in our country in the 21st century, says Congressman Ted Yoho. Yoho says it’s not unheard of for an infrastructure so widespread and tied in to bureaucracy- there are 1,700 VA facilities nationwide- to experience delays, but there need to be consequences for problems this severe. He says lawmakers are currently considering what kind of budget the VA should get, while looking at possible penalties like salary cuts for administrators who don’t perform.
œWe’re going after where it hurts in order to get this down, Yoho says.