Support our mission
The W.G. (Bill) Hefner VA Medical Center.

The W.G. (Bill) Hefner VA Medical Center. (VA)

The W.G. (Bill) Hefner VA Medical Center.

The W.G. (Bill) Hefner VA Medical Center. (VA)

A photo from the VA inspector general's report shows the daVinci© Xi system at the W.G. (Bill) Hefner VA Medical Center in Salisbury, N.C. The IG said staff did not follow policies for authorizing the purchase of the system.

A photo from the VA inspector general's report shows the daVinci© Xi system at the W.G. (Bill) Hefner VA Medical Center in Salisbury, N.C. The IG said staff did not follow policies for authorizing the purchase of the system. (VA inspector general)

WASHINGTON – A Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in North Carolina spent $2.3 million on a surgical robot without approval, a federal watchdog reported Wednesday.

The VA Office of Inspector General found that staff at the W.G. (Bill) Hefner VA Medical Center in Salisbury, N.C., bought the robotic surgical system using leftover funds at the end of fiscal year 2017 before receiving approval from regional and national leaders, as policy requires. Because of the lack of planning, the system sat inactivated for five months while the hospital prepared the site where it would be used.

The inspector general’s office blamed an “ineffective capital investment review process” and “weak internal controls” in the region of the VA that extends across the mid-Atlantic states. The IG asked region leadership to remind staff of the approval process for equipment costing more than $1 million.

According to VA policy, biomedical engineers must submit applications for expensive equipment to the Healthcare Technology Management office. That office then makes a recommendation to the VA assistant deputy undersecretary for health, who gives final approval.

The Salisbury VA ordered the surgical robot on Sept. 14, 2017 and it arrived Sept. 22. It was put into use in February 2018.

“In this instance, the Salisbury VA requested almost immediate delivery of equipment without adequately assessing and completing site preparation requirements,” the inspector general’s office wrote. “The delay… wasted almost five months of the one-year warranty included in the purchase price.”

Wentling.nikki@stripes.com Twitter: @nikkiwentling

author picture
Nikki Wentling has worked for Stars and Stripes since 2016. She reports from Congress, the White House, the Department of Veterans Affairs and throughout the country about issues affecting veterans, service members and their families. Wentling, a graduate of the University of Kansas, previously worked at the Lawrence Journal-World and Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. The National Coalition of Homeless Veterans awarded Stars and Stripes the Meritorious Service Award in 2020 for Wentling’s reporting on homeless veterans during the coronavirus pandemic. In 2018, she was named by the nonprofit HillVets as one of the 100 most influential people in regard to veterans policymaking.
twitter Email

Stripes in 7



around the web


Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up