A federal whistleblower agency released a report Thursday confirming that a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) physician performed totally unnecessary and invasive surgeries on veterans and lied about the total number to give off the impression of productivity.
The Office of Special Counsel wrote a letter to both the White House and Congress Thursday summarizing findings from a horrific case that has dragged on for years of veterans being abused by a physician.
Dr. Lisa Nee, a former cardiologist at the Hines VA medical center in Illinois, blew the whistle on the physician in 2013.
Four years later, the OSC has concluded that she was right, based on reports conducted by the VA inspector general and Office of Medical Inspector, which stated that numerous, incredibly invasive heart surgeries performed by this particular physician “were not indicated in 70 percent of the cases and the standard of care was not met in 80 percent of those cases.”
The reports also determined that more than 80 percent of echocardiograms performed were “technically inadequate.”
Astonishingly, the Office of Medical Inspector concluded that “the deficiencies did not pose a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety,” but OSC found that conclusion quite unreasonable.
Still, given that the OMI believes there was no danger to public health or safety, no disciplinary action has been taken against the physician.
What’s worse, the OMI also found that the physician fabricated patient visits and some of the procedures he performed to make it look like he was being productive. The VA has not, according to the OSC, addressed this issue at all.
Despite promising to shape up, a recent inspector general review of the lab at Hines has revealed that problems with echocardiograms have continued to occur, which may be because the staff are incompetent.
“It’s only because of Dr. Nee’s persistence that these troubling practices came to light. It’s time for the VA to fix them,” Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner said in a statement.
New VA Secretary David Shulkin has made it a point to emphasize that he’s ready and willing to fire employees who abuse the system.
“When you have one or two or three people who really aren’t doing their job, they bring everybody down,” Shulkin said in late February. “And so the very best thing I know from my private sector experience is you’ve got to deal with that, you’ve got to get them out of the system, because it helps not only the veterans, but the people who work in VA who are trying to do the right thing for veterans.”
The Department of Veterans Affairs did not respond to a request for comment from The Daily Caller News Foundation by press time.
UPDATE (3/9/2017 9:41 p.m. EST):
The Hines VA has since provided a statement to TheDCNF.
“Providing a safe environment and quality care for our Veterans is the top priority at the Hines VA Hospital (VAH). All Cardiology Peripheral Vascular procedures in 2016 were completed without adverse complications and with good outcomes,” a Hines VA spokesman told TheDCNF. “We’re proud of the care we provide our Veterans and it’s important they know the care provided at Hines VAH is safe.”
“Hines VAH fully cooperated with the OIG investigations, and we’re grateful to those who brought these issues to our attention,” the spokesman added. “During the course of multiple investigations, external expert specialists in Peripheral Vascular Surgery and Cardiology reviewed the care performed in our Cardiology Program. Our clinical teams have incorporated recommended changes to the diagnostic process, pre-procedure evaluation and post-procedure review for all vascular patients seen in the Cardiology Clinic, which will help us continue to deliver the high quality and safe care our Veterans deserve.”
“Hines VAH remains committed to providing high-quality, safe and compassionate care to the Veterans we are honored to serve.”
The spokesman claimed that the Administrative Investigation Board found that the inflated numbers declared by the physician was not intentional, but rather a combination of software error, poor training and poor documentation.
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