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Neglected Medical Record Backlog at Memphis VA (File Photo) Neglected Medical Record Backlog at Memphis VA (File Photo)  

TheDC Uncovers Another VA Backlog: Months Of Neglected Medical Records

Photo of Michael Volpe
Michael Volpe
Contributor

The Memphis VA Medical Center has yet another medical records backlog, The Daily Caller has learned — this one estimated at three to five months long.

According to the whistleblower, who provided the photo of this second set of medical records piling up at the Memphis VA Medical Center, the individual responsible for scanning in these records is Carnell Clark, an employee at the facility who is currently busy helping to catch up on a backlog TheDC exposed in June.

Sandra Glover, the spokeswoman for the Veteran Integrated Services Network 9, told TheDC the records are for “Intensive Care Unit (ICU) ‘flow sheets,’ also referred to as ‘work sheets,’ which contain real-time vital sign, input/output, and other pertinent information during the time a patient is in the ICU.” Veteran Integrated Services Network 9 includes the Memphis facility.

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According to a March 2014 Office of Special Counsel (OSC) complaint filed by another employee of the Memphis VA, the hospital has known about this problem — and an alleged cover-up — since at least that time.

“Two and a half months of inpatient stay flow sheets are missing and so far unaccounted for,” the complaint reads. “There are investigations going on and people are grouping up against each other. Even cover-ups are happening.”

In another portion of the OSC complaint, the employee accuses Clark of routinely not showing up for work, and accused then-head of Medical Records Department Brenda Jackson and her boss, David Huhman, of looking the other way.

“The employees have reported the allegation of theft of time (by Mr. Carnell Clark) to the business office chief Mr. David Huhman and the supervisor Brenda Jackson” The complaint reads. “The two allegations are serious, and it appears that nothing is going to be done about it.”

According to the whistleblower who supplied the photo, Jackson was replaced as head of the Medical Records Department at around that time. She was replaced because of an unrelated Equal Employment Opportunity complaint that was filed against her.

Jackson now works in a different department in the hospital, the whistleblower said.

In June, TheDC was supplied with a photo of another medical records backlog – that one was of medical records for outsourced medical procedures.

The new supervisor of the Medical Records Department is Rebecca England, and according to the whistleblower, England has approved overtime for Clark so he could help catch the department up on the other backlog.

According to the whistleblower, England took over after her position as the compliance officer was phased out.

The whistleblower said that England hasn’t been certified in medical records, and has no prior experience in medical records.

Glover said she hasn’t seen the OSC complaint, and said the records in question were for historical documentation purposes and didn’t affect patient care.

“Upon discharge from the ICU, the hard copy flow sheets are removed from the unit, taken to the appropriate file room, and scanned into the patient record for historical documentation purposes,” Glover said. “At no point do flow sheets have any impact on future or follow up care. They are used to aid in a patient’s care while still active on the Intensive Care Unit. Registered nurses enter summary data from the flow sheets into each patient’s computerized patient record system (CPRS) daily at the end of their shift while the patient is still on the unit.”

Glover said that the full patient history is available to any doctor upon request, if it hasn’t already been scanned into the system.

“The scanning process essentially duplicates the information with the actual forms that the nurse has already summarized and entered.”

TheDC’s whistleblower says Glover’s suggestion that the backlog isn’t affecting future patient care is spin, because doctors routinely rely on a patient’s entire medical history, including medical history generated in the ICU.

The whistleblower estimated that this backlog is three to five months.

A recent Veteran Administration Office of Inspector General report found that average wait times for initial appointments at the Memphis VA Medical Center are among the worst in the country, at more than fifty days.

TheDC also exposed that the same facility closed down an aqua therapy pool in 2011 — months after approving more than $1 million in bonuses.

The whistleblower asked to remain anonymous because they remain employed by the facility. TheDC’s whistleblower is the individual responsible for initially tipping TheDC off to the previous stories, both of which were eventually independently verified by the Memphis VA Medical Center.