Like counterparts around the country, officials at the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa and the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center in Bay Pines are preparing for an audit ordered by VA Secretary Eric Shinseki in the wake of problems veterans are having accessing care nationwide.
The two hospitals, among the nation’s busiest, will be part of a nationwide audit that began Monday, said Mary Kay Hollingsworth, spokeswoman for the VA Sunshine Healthcare Network, which comprises Florida, south Georgia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Every VA facility in the country servicing more than 10,000 patients will be audited, Hollingsworth said.
There are about 150 nationally, with about 10 in Florida, she said.
Shinseki ordered the audits after CNN and other media reported that as many as 40 patients in Phoenix died waiting for care and that there was an effort to cover up the problems. USA Today and other media reported that clerks at a VA facility in Ft. Collins, Colo., were told to falsify documents to make it seem patients were being seen in a timely manner.
These stories come on the heels of stories that at least 23 patients nationwide — including three in the VA Sunshine Healthcare Network — died because of delays in treatment.
Last month, politicians including Sen. Bill Nelson and Gov. Rick Scott began examining the issue after stories and an editorial in The Tribune about the deaths in the Florida system.
“Basically, they want to make sure that our scheduling staff is following procedures when scheduling appointments,” Hollingsworth said. “They want to make sure everyone is doing what is directed.”
The review is comprised of coordinated activities, including assessments of training, policy, and systems,” according to Jason Dangel, spokesman at the Young center. “If it is determined any one location is not in compliance for any reason, corrective actions will be taken. That is the purpose of the national review.”
More than 200 VA staff will perform the system-wide audit of scheduling practices, said Dangel.
Staff from one region will audit other regions, said Hollingsworth. The audits, she said, will be performed by teams made up of associate directors, chief medial officers, quality managers and other subject matter experts.
Though the audits begin Monday, Hollingsworth said she does not yet know when local facilities will be visited. The audits will last a day and the review process will take “a couple of weeks,” said Hollingsworth, adding that she does not anticipate auditors will find problems in Florida similar to Phoenix or Ft. Collins.
“I don’t expect there will be a finding outside of policy or directives,” she said.