North Carolina VA hospital bought $2.3 million surgical robot without permission
By NIKKI WENTLING | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 19, 2019
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.”