Let’s give a big thumbs-up to Dr. H, a physician at a regional Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center –and a whistleblower.
Dr. H testified before a House Veterans Affairs oversight and investigations subcommittee about her whistleblower complaints to the Office of Special Counsel, which have resulted in numerous investigations and findings of serious wrongdoing at the regional center. For example:
• Nurse practitioners weren’t supervised. They were labeled Licensed Independent Practitioners, which they weren’t, and they were “practicing outside the scope of their licensure.” There was never any oversight or review of the care they gave.
Thus empowered, nurse practitioners prescribed narcotics “in flagrant violation of Federal and individual state laws and VA Handbook regulations,” using one-size-fits-all institutional DEA tracking numbers on the drugs, with no physician oversight whatsoever and no means of tracing who prescribed what.
• Doctors were pushed to sign prescriptions for patients they hadn’t even seen. When the doctors objected, the chief of staff brought in residents from a local medical school to write prescriptions after hours.
• Veterans were scheduled into fictitious “ghost” clinics where there were actually no doctors, only nursing staff. Many veterans were unaware that they were being seen only by a nurse, not a doctor.
• Doctors were pushed to sign collaborative agreements concerning the nursing practitioners’ status (essentially monitoring agreements), and when they objected (they could be sued for the work of the nurse), they were told that 55 percent of their performance pay would be withheld.
• Nurses weren’t taking complete histories for patients, just “pasting in” previous information.
I’ve read a lot of terrible medical center reports, but this beats them all. I haven’t named the medical center because I fear these problems aren’t unique in the VA health-care system.
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