Thursday, April 24, 2014

Meanwhile, on This Side of the Pond . . .

Henry likes to write about the MVNHS (Most Vaunted National Health Service). Mike brings us tales about health care  in the Sceptered Isle.  

As it turns out, they don't have to travel that far to find stories about government run health care.
At least 40 U.S. veterans died waiting for appointments at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care system, many of whom were placed on a secret waiting list.
The secret list was part of an elaborate scheme designed by Veterans Affairs managers in Phoenix who were trying to hide that 1,400 to 1,600 sick veterans were forced to wait months to see a doctor, according to a recently retired top VA doctor and several high-level sources.

Treatment at V.A. facilities has been a dirty secret for some time. Just a few years ago the Walter Reed scandal made the news.

Now this.

The secret waiting list sounds like Schindler's List, except much more ominous.
The VA requires its hospitals to provide care to patients in a timely manner, typically within 14 to 30 days, Foote said.
According to Foote, the elaborate scheme in Phoenix involved shredding evidence to hide the long list of veterans waiting for appointments and care. Officials at the VA, Foote says, instructed their staff to not actually make doctor's appointments for veterans within the computer system.
Instead, Foote says, when a veteran comes in seeking an appointment, "they enter information into the computer and do a screen capture hard copy printout. They then do not save what was put into the computer so there's no record that you were ever here," he said.

Data manipulation by the government? 

That's a first . . .
Foote says the Phoenix wait times reported back to Washington were entirely fictitious. "So then when they did that, they would report to Washington, 'Oh yeah. We're makin' our appointments within -- within 10 days, within the 14-day frame,' when in reality it had been six, nine, in some cases 21 months," he said.
What is the impact on the health of our veterans?
Teddy says his Brooklyn-raised father was so proud of his military service that he would go nowhere but the VA for treatment. On September 28, 2013, with blood in his urine and a history of cancer, Teddy and his wife, Sally, rushed his father to the Phoenix VA emergency room, where he was examined and sent home to wait.
"They wrote on his chart that it was urgent," said Sally, her father-in-law's main caretaker. The family has obtained the chart from the VA that clearly states the "urgency" as "one week" for Breen to see a primary care doctor or at least a urologist, for the concerns about the blood in the urine.
"And they sent him home," says Teddy, incredulously.

Seems we have our own version of the Liverpool Care Pathway right here in the U.S.

So what happened with 71 year old Navy veteran Thomas Breen? 

When no one called from the V.A. about his follow up appointment family members made several inquiries.

"Well, you know, we have other patients that are critical as well," Sally says she was told. "It's a seven-month waiting list. And you're gonna have to have patience."
Sally says she kept calling, day after day, from late September to October. She kept up the calls through November. But then she no longer had reason to call.
Thomas Breen died on November 30. The death certificate shows that he died from Stage 4 bladder cancer. Months after the initial visit, Sally says she finally did get a call.
"They called me December 6. He's dead already."

The V.A. saga that started on Sept. 28, marked as "urgent", ended for Mr. Breen on November 30.

One can argue that Mr. Breen's stage 4 bladder cancer was too advanced, treatment would not have saved him.

Yes, you could say that. But you miss the point.

No one deserves this kind of neglect.

Especially our veterans.
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