Did the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center delay care for hundreds of veterans with cardiology issues? A new report from the Department of Veterans Affairs' Inspector General says yes.
According to a recently released report, The Office of Inspector General received two separate anonymous complaints in 2014 and 2015, alleging delay of care and potential manipulation of wait-time statistics at the VA Medical Center in West Palm Beach, Florida.
The first complaint alleged that the VAMC and its outlying clinics were using patient cancellations to manipulate wait times. The second anonymous complaint alleged that canceled cardiology appointments delayed cardiology patient care.
The Inspector General's Office says it did find the West Palm clinic had a higher than average rate of clinic-canceled cardiology appointments with some patients experiencing multiple cancellations.
According to the report, clinic scheduling staff canceled approximately 15 percent of cardiology appointments scheduled from October 1, 2014 through February 26, 2016, when the VA national average for the same period was 11 percent. These canceled appointments resulted in delayed care for many veterans, with at least 971 veterans incurring multiple cancellations
Investigative staff also found scheduling staff incorrectly recorded wait times when rescheduling 125 of 160 clinic-canceled appointments and 13 of 120 patient-canceled appointments.
The Inspector General's report said these conditions occurred because the VAMC did not fully staff the cardiology clinic, and facility scheduler training and audits were not adequate. As a result, West Palm Beach VAMC management understated patient wait times, delayed patient care, and did not offer eligible patients care through the Veterans Choice Program.
As part of their report, the Inspector General made several recommendations to the clinic's director:
1. They recommended the Director of the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center ensure recruitment efforts are progressing to fulfill cardiology clinic vacancies and that there are sufficient cardiologists for the needs of the Medical Center.
2. They recommended the Director of the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center ensure all scheduling staff is trained on the requirement to reschedule appointments canceled by the clinic within 14 days of the original appointment date.
3. They recommended the Director of the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center ensure schedulers are using the clinically indicated or preferred appointment dates when scheduling appointments.
4. They recommended the Director of the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center ensure supervisors perform the required number of scheduling audits for each scheduler as required by VAMC policy.
The Inspector General says it will continue to keep an eye on the Clinic.
Read the full report here: