Delayed Care at VA Hospital Blamed for Three Deaths

The Charlie Norwood Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Augusta, Georgia, admitted recently that three cancer patients had died over the past two years due to delayed care at the hospital’s gastrointestinal program. That should never happen.

The medical facility did not release the names of the victims, but the Augusta Chronicle reported that the patients’ deaths reportedly were linked to poor management by the hospital’s former director. According to a 2012 report by the VA Inspector General’s Office, Rebecca Wiley’s ineffective management of staff and medical procedures caused five injuries or deaths and more than 4,500 unresolved gastrointestinal endoscopy consults. Her tenure lasted from February 2007 to December 2010.

Pete Scovill, the spokesman for Charlie Norwood VA, refused to go into any detail about how the three gastrointestinal patients died. He said in an e-mailed statement to the newspaper that  “these brave service men fell victim to cancer that may have been avoided had they received specialized screenings during the early stages of the disease. We have worked diligently to eliminate the roadblocks that delayed these all important screenings and would like to share with you and our community our improvements and system changes that may keep other comrade at arms from falling victim to this insidious scourge, cancer.”

Problems at Columbia VA Medical Center

In a related story, CNN reported that the Williams Jennings Bryan Dorn Veterans Medical Center in Columbia, South Carolina, experienced six cancer deaths under Wiley’s leadership. The hospital administrator became the director of this facility in November 2011, nearly a year after she left Augusta, where the VA center lost full accreditation.

The Inspector General discovered that Columbia facilities operated below minimum staffing requirements, lacked skilled management oversight and had marked delays in testing and traumatic brain injury care.

Due to these findings, the U.S. House Committee on Veteran Affairs requested copies of all current accounts of appointment backlogs and patient injuries. In addition, the committee asked for records relating to performance reviews, pay bonuses and disciplinary actions issued since 2002 to those charged with the safety of patients in Augusta.

As of late November, Curt Cashour, the committee’s communications director, said the request for these materials remains unfilled.

If you or a loved one has develop health complications that you suspect are related to delayed treatment at a VA hospital in South Carolina, a medical malpractice attorney can inform you of your rights.