An overview of the electronic waiting system at the Veterans Health Affairs medical center in Phoenix reveals that the system was missing at least 1,700 veterans who were not scheduled for an appointment.
The report was issued by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). The electronic waiting list scandal has been a hot-button issue the past week, with Congressional hearings and mainstream media coverage. Eric Shinseki, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, has been on the hot seat, according to media reports, because of the ordeal.
The scandal began a few weeks back when a report from CNN indicated that hospital officials and staff members were not placing veterans on the electronic waiting list and undermining scheduling procedures. This would ensure they could understate the time new patients waited for an appointment, which ties into financial incentives and rewards, the reports allege. Instead, the Veterans Health Administration officials created a secret waiting list. The result was a lack of patient safety and in fact, a number of patients died waiting for care.
The OIG report substantiates some of those claims, but didn’t say the patients died because they were waiting to get an appointment. After analyzing, 226 appointments a the Phoenix Health Care System, OIG concluded that veterans were waiting on average of 115 days for their first primary care appointment and 84 percent waited more than 14 days. Most of the discrepancies occurred, OIG says, because of delays between the veteran’s requested appointment date and the date the appointment was created. The delays occurred because personnel was printing demographic information on the patient and failing to add it to the electronic waiting list. Personnel said there were often delays and backlogs in adding those patients to the electronic waiting list.
OIG made several recommendations to the VA Secretary, including ensuring those 1,700 veterans get the appropriate healthcare immediately, reviewing all existing waiting lists at the health system in Phoenix, and initiate a nationwide review of veterans on wait lists. The OIG said it has opened reviews at other Veterans Health Administration facilities because of what happened in Phoenix.