Many medical conditions require prompt diagnosis in order to be treatable and to prevent the risk of death. Unfortunately, veterans who are trying to obtain diagnostic exams at VA hospitals throughout the United States are struggling to get the care that they need. A recent investigation conducted by CNN.com has revealed that veterans are dying because of unreasonable delays and backlogs that prevent them from getting gastrointestinal appointments and other access to care.
Veterans were promised medical assistance in exchange for their service, and this care needs to be provided by qualified physicians at hospitals that provide reasonable quality medical care. The Federal Tort Claims Act allows veterans and surviving family members to pursue malpractice claims when hospitals and providers fail to live up to their obligations. An experienced medical malpractice lawyer in Louisville can help those who have been harmed by delays in diagnoses at veterans hospitals.
Investigation Reveals Significant Problems with Access to Care at VA Hospitals
The CNN investigation has revealed that government officials are aware that many patients are waiting upwards of eight months to have diagnostic appointments at certain VA hospitals. Certain hospitals and facilities are worse than others, and at one veterans hospital there were at least six fatalities and as many as 20 deaths that occurred because patients had to wait too long to get their cancer or other medical conditions diagnosed.
CNN shared specific patient stories, which were revealed in a number of government documents that had not been released to the public. The documents show that the government first became aware of a major issue in May of 2011 when a patient was brought to the emergency room in need of urgent care after suffering multiple delays in receiving a diagnostic appointment.
VA records show that one veteran had to wait for at least nine months for a colonoscopy, at which time it was determined that he had cancer. Surgery was scheduled, but the cancer had already progressed to stage three. Another man who had esophageal cancer was diagnosed at a late stage because he was unable to get an appointment for four months and because he had to wait 11 months for an endoscopy.
Physicians working at the VA hospital tried to alert the Department of Veteran’s Affairs to these issues, with one doctor sending a letter in July of 2011 indicating that there were 2,500 patients who were waiting for appointments. The wait time at this time was eight months, but the backlog soon grew and by December of 2011, there were 3,800 patients in need of appointments.
Although taxpayer money was provided to solve the problem in September of 2011, just a third of the money was used for the intended purpose of paying for the care of veterans on the waiting list at the hospital. The rest was redirected, and patients continued to have diseases progress and turn fatal as they waited for someone to help them.