Add the Louis A. Johnson Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center to the litany of VA facilities that have manipulated data to reduce reported wait times.
After the Phoenix waitlist scandal was exposed in 2014, one would think this issue would have been resolved. Unfortunately, this practice continues with the West Virginia hospital being the most recent facility to have manipulated wait times.
An investigation was first launched after a whistleblower went to the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) with information disclosing the data manipulation. In a press release, the OSC stated the investigation found the Louis A. Johnson Medical Center “intentionally manipulated patient data to artificially reduce reported wait times and the volume of patient visits.”
According to the report, during the last seven years a VA manager created two unofficial clinics to place emergency patients in – rather than record their emergency department encounter. The manager tried to direct other staff to place certain patients into these two unofficial clinics, which gave the false impression that the primary care clinic had a greater workload and demand for services than it actually had.
On top of this the report found the Associate Chief of Staff for Patient Care Services received a nearly $4,000 bonus in 2012 after a performance review. Rewarding the leader of the facility with a bonus while an employee was violating VA procedures, and trying to influence other employees to do the same, only encourages misconduct to continue.
Thankfully, the confidential whistleblower came forward and helped expose this negligence and misconduct at the facility. In the OSC press release, Acting Special Counsel Tristan Leavitt had this to say about the importance of whistleblowers reporting wrongdoing:
“Whistleblowers who bring agency wrongdoing to light perform a valuable public service and deserve our gratitude. Manipulating data to reduce reported wait times is an unscrupulous use of taxpayer dollars and unfair to veterans.”
The VA Whistleblower and Protection Act that was signed earlier this year is already paying dividends in helping protect whistleblowers and getting rid of bad employees. Secretary Shulkin has authority given to him under the VA Whistleblower and Protection Act allowing him to hold employees who manipulate wait times and engage in misconduct accountable.
The VA needs to ensure veterans are receiving the best care possible – allowing wait time scandals to persist is not acceptable.