‘No major concerns’ voiced after Hefner VA audit

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 20, 2014

SALISBURY — The Hefner VA Medical Center has come through an audit of access to care issues with “no major concerns voiced about scheduling practices,” according Kaye Green, medical center director.
Reported cases of scheduling fraud at VA hospitals in Phoenix, Durham and elsewhere prompted an audit of all VA Health facilities nationwide, with a final report expected in August.
Of the four facilities in the Salisbury VA Health Care System ­— the Hefner Medical Center and outpatient clinics in Winston-Salem, Hickory and Charlotte — all but Hickory have been reviewed, according to a statement from Green.
“As of today, the Salisbury VA Health Care System has undergone a partial audit with three of the four Salisbury sites being complete,” Green’s Monday statement said. The audit team shared no specifics but voiced no major concerns about scheduling, she said.
“I have communicated with my staff throughout my tenure here that we will never sacrifice our integrity for the sake of a measurement or anything else,” Green said. “I am committed to being open and honest with the public, and the veterans we serve. If we make a mistake, we will admit it and correct it as quickly as humanly possible.
“I stand committed with our staff to providing the best care possible to all Veterans who choose to come here for care.”
In fiscal year 2013, the Salisbury VA Healthcare System treated more than 90,000 individual veterans and had more than 780,000 outpatient visits, making it the largest and busiest VA system in the state.
The VA Health Care system has a standard requiring that VA hospitals not allow patients to wait more than 14 days to see a doctor, Efforts at some hospitals to get around that standard or make it falsely appear that the standard has been met has led to a growing scandal within the VA system.
VA workers in Wyoming, Texas, Colorado and Durham are being investigated for allegedly manipulating scheduling systems to hide the fact that veterans actually waited months for appointments.
• A former worker at a VA clinic in Fort Collins, Colo., says she and another scheduler were transferred out for refusing to hide the wait time for appointments.
• A nurse who works for the Cheyenne, Wyo., VA was put on leave for allegedly sending an email telling employees to falsify appointment records. The email said the approach was “gaming the system a bit,” but said “the front office gets very upset” when the 14-day target isn’t met.
• Two employees at the Durham VA Medical Center are on administrative leave for what officials call inappropriate scheduling practices.
• Last month, it was discovered that the VA hospital in Phoenix put patients on a secret waiting list that kept some veterans from getting treatment for as long as 200 days.
Early this month, the American Legion called for the resignations of Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, Under Secretary of Health Robert Petzel and Under Secretary of Benefits Allison Hickey.
Shinseki accepted Petzel’s resignation last week, but many complained that Petzel was already near retirement.
House Republicans have set a vote for Wednesday on legislation that would give Shinseki greater power to fire or demote executives and adminsitrators at the agency and its 152 medical centers.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.