News Release: Sen. Bill Nelson's Office
The Department of Veterans Affairs Monday released its findings on deaths and injuries that occurred as a result of delayed tests and treatments.
Going back to 1999, the VA identified three patients in the Sunshine Healthcare Network, which includes Florida, south Georgia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands who died from malignancies as the result of delays in treatment.
Two were from the North Florida/South Georgia VA Health System and one was from the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center, according to the VA.
Another two patient deaths in the region were determined not be related to the delays.
Nationally, the VA identified 76 patients in the health care system for whom institutional disclosures were provided or attempted, based on their gastrointestinal care. Of those, 23 since died.
There were no deaths as the result of delays at the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa or the C.W. “Bill” Young VA Medical Center in Bay Pines, but there were two “institutional disclosures” at the Bay Pines facility and one in Tampa, according to the report. That means that patients or their representatives were notified that they were harmed, or may have been harmed, during their care.
“As a result of the consult delay issue VA discovered at two of our medical centers, the Veterans Health Administration continues to conduct a national review of consults across the system,” according to the VA. “We have redesigned the consult process to better monitor consult timeliness. We continue to take action to strengthen oversight mechanisms and prevent a similar delay at other VA medical centers. We take any issue of this nature extremely seriously and offer our sincerest condolences to families and individuals who have been affected and lost a loved one.”
Until Monday, VA officials had refused to say which facilities were involved. The VA also denied a Freedom of Information Act request filed by The Tribune seeking the information.
The issue became fodder for politicians reacting to stories and an editorial in the Tampa Tribune, First Sen. Bill Nelson, then Gov. Rick Scott weighed in on the issue. Nelson wrote a letter to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki demanding answers. He also visited the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital on a “fact-finding” tour, where he was told none of the deaths occurred as the result of delays there. Mary Kay Hollingsworth, a spokeswoman for the Sunshine Healthcare Network, told the Tribune that none of the deaths were the result of issues at the C.W. “Bill” Young VA Medical Center in Bay Pines either.
Scott followed Nelson’s visit by ordering inspections of VA hospitals by the state’s Agency for Healthcare Administration. Last week, two AHCA officials were turned away at the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center, which declined to provide any information, citing patient privacy issues.
The House Veterans Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on the matter April 9.
“I’m glad to see the VA being open,” said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee who’s been pressing the VA to open up records on patient deaths. “At the end of the day, it’s all about giving veterans the best care.”