MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Two weeks after top administrators were removed from authority at the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System (CAVHCS), concerns over how promised reforms are being carried out have prompted U.S. Representative Martha Roby (R-AL) to again urge national VA leadership to intervene.
In a letter to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald, Rep. Roby expressed gratitude for the action taken, but explained three key reasons why reform efforts may be undermined:
· At least one of the senior managers removed and placed on administrative leave appears to have retained access to email and building facilities;
· The involvement of VISN, or regional, VA leadership in covering up the lost X-Ray fiasco calls into question the ability of VISN management to oversee the reform efforts;
· And a lack of communication to employees and the community has contributed to a lingering belief that attention to the myriad problems in Central Alabama will be short-lived.
Rep. Roby writes:
“I greatly appreciate your swift action regarding CAVHCS. It is, however, naive to believe that simply removing two individuals from a system troubled by a culture of complacency and cronyism will unto itself improve the quality and accessibility of medical care for my veteran constituents. I must again insist that your national leadership team in Washington – not the regional team in Atlanta – be directly responsible for the overhaul at CAVHCS. And I must strongly recommend that the individuals placed on administrative leave be restricted from accessing government computers and facilities until their status as employees of the Veterans Administration is determined.”
Rep. Roby has worked over the last several weeks to expose instances of misconduct and cover-up within the troubled Central Alabama VA. Information revealed since then includes:
· At least 900 unread patient X-RAY tests - many showing malignancies - were lost until recently, and top hospital administrators tried to cover up the problem, [The Montgomery Advertiser];
· The VA regional chief medical officer asked staff to remove all references to the problems with lost X-rays from a report, [The Montgomery Advertiser];
· More than 441 staff positions have gone unfilled while only 38 job openings are posted online, [The Montgomery Advertiser];
· The VA pulmonologist found to have manipulated more than 1,200 patient records was caught doing it again, and yet, went on to receive a “satisfactory performance” review, [The Montgomery Advertiser];
· Email records show the Central Alabama VA director was alerted to concerns over patient scheduling discrepancies more than eight months before taking action, [The Montgomery Advertiser];
· More than 57 percent of staff surveyed at Montgomery-based CAVHCS said they received “instruction” from the facility to manipulate patient wait times, according to an “Access Audit” conducted by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), [The Montgomery Advertiser];
· A CAVHCS worker took a recovering veteran patient off campus to a crack house, bought him illegal drugs, may have extorted VA payments to pay for vehicles and services from a prostitute, and fraudulently claimed overtime pay for all the extracurricular activities. Yet, despite being caught and found guilty of the violations, the worker was still employed at CAVHCS more than a year after the incident, [The Montgomery Advertiser].