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Detroit News: Detroit VA hospital harmed patients, altered records, investigation reveals

Detroit News: Detroit VA hospital harmed patients, altered records, investigation reveals

Washington ― Investigators found lacking oversight they believe contributed to patient harm and death, and a pattern of “substandard” care in the surgery practice at Detroit's John D. Dingell VA Medical Center that leaders tried to conceal by altering external peer reviews and other data.

Those are among the findings of a report ― obtained by The Detroit News through a records request ― by the Veterans Health Administration’s Office of the Medical Inspector (OMI) last year following an on-site inspection in November 2021.

The hospital has since come under new leadership.

The OMI said one clinician had been the source of multiple investigations, tort claims and “poor veteran outcomes” for at least four years but still had been allowed to remain. Subordinates who spoke to OMI investigators said they feared “adverse actions” or retaliation if they reported concerns.

The OMI also validated a whistleblower’s allegation of “collusion” among senior leaders and a medical provider with “concerning clinical outcomes.” The OMI said leaders altered colonoscopy privileges for all general surgeons at the facility to avoid having to report one of them to the National Practitioner Data Bank.

That database, created by Congress, is a confidential repository that tracks cases of physician incompetence, misconduct and discipline ― including the restriction of physician privileges ― so that medical facilities across state lines are alerted to problem clinicians when they try to get a job somewhere else.

The OMI report offers the most details to date about what contributed to the reassignment of top leaders at the Midtown hospital as investigations into the findings continued.

But the report was heavily redacted by the Veterans Health Administration before its release, including obscuring most of the recommendations that the OMI made for the Detroit VA to address the situation, so the scope of what was recommended and what action has been taken to correct problems are not totally clear.

The OMI report is what prompted Michigan Democratic lawmakers including U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters and Rep. Debbie Dingell of Ann Arbor to call on VA Inspector General Michael J. Missal last fall to review the alleged misconduct at the medical center, as well as the Department of Veterans Affairs' response to it.

In response, a review is underway by the Inspector General’s Office of Healthcare Inspections and will be published when done, Missal spokesman Fred Baker said.

Read the full story from the Detroit News.
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