2 more VA health care workers put on leave

By GREGG ZOROYA | USA TODAY | Published: May 13, 2014

Two more Department of Veterans Affairs workers at a hospital in Durham, N.C., were sent home on administrative leave this week amid allegations linked to delay of health care in another part of a spreading pattern of investigations.

The VA has recently come under intense pressure over charges or findings that veterans have waited months to be seen by a doctor, in dozens of cases in recent years dying before treatment was provided.

There have been calls from some sectors, including the American Legion, for VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to step down. The agency chief responded last week by saying he would take "swift and appropriate" action should news of new problems surface.

Late Monday night, the VA issued a brief statement that a tip from an employee at the Durham VA Medical Center "indicated that some employees at that facility may have engaged in inappropriate scheduling practices at some point between 2009 and 2012."

The VA learned of the allegations Monday and two employees at the hospital were immediately placed on administrative leaving pending a review, the agency said.

This the third round of administrative leaves in recent weeks connected to charges about delay of care.

Late last month, in response to a request by the VA inspector general, Shinseki placed the hospital administrator at the VA medical center in Phoenix and two other officials there on administrative leave. The inspector general is investigating allegations by a retired doctor who worked at the Phoenix facility that up to 40 veterans died while waiting for treatment.

There also are charges that appointment records were falsified and some destroyed.

Last week, Shinseki placed a nurse working at a Wyoming VA hospital on administrative leave after receiving from the media a leaked e-mail dating from 2013 that contained explicit directions on how to "game" the system and hide long delays of treating patients.

The inspector general was also called in to investigate that case.

All of the VA's 151 hospitals and 820 clinics are required to keep records on how long it takes for patients to be seen by a doctor so that the agency can determine how quickly it is dispensing health care.

The VA Medical Center in Durham, N.C., in July of 2008.


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