The Veterans Health Administration (VA), which is the largest healthcare system in the U.S., serving more than nine million veterans across the United States has once again come until fire due to a USA Today investigation report, reported by The Blaze, that revealed that VA hospital executives deliberately hired physicians with past malpractice accusations and revoked medical licenses.
A federal law, passed in Congress in 1999, forbids any of the VA hospitals, clinics from hiring any physician, nurses, or other healthcare workers who have had their medical licenses revoked in any state but, it appears that this did not stop the VA from hiring license-revoked medical practitioners. The USA Today report showed that the VA in 2002 issued national guidelines that did permit hospitals to hire workers after consideration of all pertinent facts pertaining to those who had revoked medical licenses.
In one case, the USA Today investigation had found that VA hospital officials in Iowa City, Iowa, had manipulated VA guidelines when earlier this year, they hired neurosurgeon, John Schneider. Schneider had revealed in his employment application that the state of Wyoming had revoked his medical license. His license was revoked due to copious malpractice claims, various lawsuit settlements, and a patient of his, an Army veteran, died due to Schneider’s negligence, but nevertheless, those hospital officials went ahead hired Schneider, totally ignoring his medical practice background.
In Schneider’s malpractice report, the claims against him included situations where he had made several surgical mistakes that left patients disfigured, paralyzed or in one case, dead. One particular patient of note was a 65-year-old Army veteran, Richard Joseph Hopkins, who died during a four week period, as a result of a serious infection after having four brain surgeries done by Schneider.
Schneider ended up resigning in November after he was questioned by USA Today investigators, but he continued to deny that he provided unacceptable care or caused any complications that resulted in poor outcomes for his patients. Surprisingly enough, the Iowa City VA Hospital admitted to USA Today that they were operating under what they said was “incorrect guidance” when they hired Schneider.
While the Schneider case has caught national attention, the USA Today report also centered on other cases at other VA hospitals including in one case, at a Louisiana VA clinic, where a psychologist was able to gain employment despite the fact that he stated on his application of his felony convictions.
What does the VA plan to do about it?
Veteran Administration Secretary, David Shulkin spoke to USA Today and stated that he has ordered a complete revision of the VA hiring guidelines and institute a nationwide evaluation to determine if any other VA health care workers have previous or present, revoked licenses and to immediately dismiss those individuals.
Shulkin said, “It’s very clear to me that our job is to have the best quality doctors that we can provide to take care of veterans, and that’s going to be our policy.”
Shulkin continued and stated that those VA health care providers who have past sanctions against them, to which their medical licenses were revoked or have reprimands, will also be evaluated to guarantee they are providing absolute care to veterans being served for their health care needs at VA hospitals and clinics across the country.
As a result of the damning USA Today VA report, which appears to be an on-going investigation, approximately 50 members of Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, have called on the VA to provide solutions about its hospitals’ hiring procedures.