A new government watchdog report shows that the Department of Veterans Affairs declined in 90 percent of cases to report potentially dangerous doctors to a national database.
The purpose of the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) is to prevent doctors from moving across state lines and taking on patients, but according to a report from the Government Accountability Office which reviewed five VA medical centers, the VA hid misconduct in the case of eight out of nine doctors examined. While the VA reported one doctor to the NPDB, it failed to report any of the doctors to state licensing boards. The report of one of the doctors only took place 136 days after the appeals process had finished, violating the 15-day VA reporting deadline.
What this means is that out of the set of 150 total hospitals, there could be way more cases of doctors flying under the radar, who haven’t been reported to the database despite misconduct.
One doctor, whom the VA declined to report, later had his privileges revoked at a private sector hospital, which likely means he did not learn his lesson and continued to practice unsafely. Out of the nine doctors, the VA took “privileging actions against five” and four others elected to resign or retire during an ongoing review.
Aside from the failure to report in 90 percent of cases, the GAO reviewed 148 medical providers from October 2013 to March 2017 and found that many of the reviews into their behavior were either not documented or were not even conducted in a timely fashion.
Apparently, the reason for the failure to report is that officials at the five facilities simply were unaware of the policies or misinterpreted them.
“We found that all five [hospitals] lacked at least some documentation of the reviews they told us they conducted, and in some cases, the required reviews were not conducted at all,” GAO investigators stated.
In October, USA Today reported that the VA for years worked to hide mistakes of doctors and staff members.
In response to the new GAO investigation, the VA agreed with all findings and pledged to implement changes, namely rewriting policy and including clear timeline expectations for reviews.
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