All the usual factors are present: Crappy, incompetent medical service (I won't dignify it by calling it "care"), abusive, greedy administrators, and an airtight coverup apparatus that punishes dissenters and whistleblowers.
This latest story reemphasizes more than ever that these are not isolated exceptions, but that malpractice, disease, corruption, and filth characterize and are systemic in the VA system:
Here are some of the Scripps-WCPO findings, all based on interviews and documents:
Services to veterans have been reduced, including spine and orthopedic surgeries, along with customized prosthetic services for artificial limbs.
Dr. Temeck [the head of the Cincinnati VA] prescribed controlled substances, including hydrocodone and a generic form of Valium, to Mrs. Hetrick, the wife of her regional boss, Jack Hetrick. State and federal authorities confirm Dr. Temeck does not have a valid controlled substances license that would allow her to write prescriptions privately for Mrs. Hetrick.
She was her boss's wife's pusher, IOW.
Dr. Temeck cut around-the-clock staffing by emergency airway specialists to save money, resulting in at least one close call involving a patient who could not breathe.
Dr. Temeck told operating-room staff they were being “too picky” when they reported surgical instruments delivered to operating rooms with blood and bone chips from previous surgeries.
Dr. Temeck is paid separately as a VA administrator and cardiothoracic surgeon. But whistleblowers say she has never served as the operating surgeon since coming to Cincinnati.
Larcenous double-dipping, IOW.
The nearly three dozen whistleblowers have been voicing their concerns for the better part of a year, including meeting in person with regional director Hetrick and reaching out to members of Congress and [Commissar] McDonald. They say little has been done to remedy the problems. [emphasis added]
Of course not. Because they don't matter and the VA's veteran patients don't matter. Only the bureaucracy matters, and there's nobody to hold them accountable for either their shoddy performance or their sheer greed.
Here's more on the filth angle:
Brooks and other operating-room staff said one of the most disturbing problems involved contaminated surgical instruments. “I’ve seen surgical instruments that once we open the sterile pack, they will have pieces of debris, possibly bone or other debris from previous surgeries still on the instrumentation,” Brooks said.
Instead of committing to better training or spending to hire more certified technicians, Brooks said Dr. Temeck told operating-room staff to stop complaining.
She also required them to notify her when they spotted problems so she could inspect the tools before they could be replaced with clean ones. Brooks said surgeries were halted, sometimes with patients cut open, waiting for Dr. Temeck to arrive for an inspection.
“She felt that these were all fabrications, that we were making up stories about the instruments not being clean, so she wanted to see for herself,” he said. “If she was in another meeting, it could be twenty minutes, half an hour, with the patient under anesthesia.” [emphases added]
That's not just callousness or incompetence; it is sheer brutality. Couple that with the illegal drug trafficking and blatant theft and you have another window into what "single-payer" socialized medicine is really like in practice - the very same system that both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders intend to inflict on the entire country if Barack Obama surprises everybody and departs office when he's supposed to.
The only true solution to this problem is one word: privatization. As long as the VA remains a Marxist government monopoly, nothing will ever change or improve. Period.
UPDATE: You know all those additional billions Congress threw at the VA scandal a year and a half ago? They've purchased shiny new doublings of average veteran wait times for desperately needed medical attention:
Appointment wait times at the [Commissariat] of Veterans Affairs are not getting better.
Despite billions of extra dollars poured into the agency in the last year and numerous reforms intended to improve veterans' access to care, whistleblowers and internal documents obtained by CNN reveal some VA facilities continue to grapple with appointment wait times of months or more....
An internal VA draft memo from August warns, "Currently wait times are increasing significantly," referring to an overall increase of appointments with delays.
VA Deputy [Commissar] Sloan Gibson, who received this internal memo, told CNN there are almost half a million appointments with extended wait times, which includes appointments with delays longer than thirty days and veterans waiting on a list for appointments to become available.
According to Gibson, the number of appointments with extended waits is even higher than it was more than a year ago, when government and media reports revealed veterans were dying while waiting for care in the midst of an immense backlog of appointments. [emphases added]
You know the other reason why, folks? Let me go Jeopardy! on your heinies and put it in the form of a question: When you increase your offer of free stuff, what happens to demand?:
"The lesson that we've seen in location after location is when we improve access to care, whether it's by adding staff or space or productivity or care in the community, more veterans come to VA for more care."
Gibson said since the 2014 scandal, the VA has created twice the capacity that should be needed to meet health care needs of veterans enrolled in the system, yet he said the increased capacity has increased demand.
You know what the best way to reduce that demand is? Start charging for it. Rendering the "stuff" no longer free or restricting access to it are the only means of regulating demand. It's Economics 101. And the VA is already doing a bang-up job of limiting the supply of veterans medical services. It appears to come naturally to them.
And to the objection that charging for VA services would drive the price into outer space, there's a simple solution to that, as well: competition. Break the VA "single-payer" monopoly. Introduce the free market into the VA equation. Privatize it. That's Economics 101 as well.
Until then, expect to hear mealy-mouthed, obfuscatory double-talk like this....:
The VA has publicly confirmed a change in wait-time calculations.
Previously, wait times were measured by tracking the time that elapsed from the day an appointment was created until the day it was completed.
Now, the VA calculates wait times by measuring the time between the date a patient prefers to be seen and the date the appointment is actually completed.
When asked if the VA implemented the calculation change to conceal health care delays, Gibson said, "I wouldn't stand for it, not for a minute."
....and for whistle-blowers to continue to be severely punished and eliminated:
Dr. Katherine Mitchell, who disclosed information about delays in care at the Phoenix VA to Congress and CNN last year, said many of the VA administrators who retaliated against whistleblowers during the 2014 scandal remain in top positions.
"The culture of retaliation continues," Mitchell said. "At this point in the VA, you risk your job, you risk your reputation if you speak up for patient care problems. You do not risk your job if you retaliate against someone. And it should be just the reverse."
UPDATE II: Good Lord:
A VA suicide hotline designed to help distressed vets, at times instead sent their calls to a voicemail message, provided no immediate assistance, and did not even return some calls, according to a new report. [emphasis added]
Exit question: DOD doesn't put military recruitment centers right next to VA hospitals, do they?