Oklahoma City VA Medical Center Unethical Practices
The Office of Inspector General (OIG) received an anonymous allegation in October 2014 that ophthalmology staff at the Oklahoma City VA Medical Center (VAMC) “inappropriately discontinued consults.” The OIG reported that the complainant “specifically highlighted the ophthalmology clinic’s practice of discontinuing consults its staff received from the teleretinal imaging clinic.” Last month, the OIG released its findings on the alleged mishandling of ophthalmology consults at the Oklahoma City VAMC.
The Oklahoma City VAMC has primary care physicians who consult various specialists regarding the management of medical conditions that require a specific type of care. It was consultations to ophthalmology and a teleretinal imaging clinic that led to an anonymous complaint to the OIG. The lack of response by the Ophthalmology Department and teleretinal imaging clinic to consultations received through the VAMC’s electronic medical record (EMR) is what led to the investigation by the OIG.
The consultations that the OIG reviewed were for comprehensive eye exams and teleretinal imaging for diabetic patients who are at risk for diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy is an eye disease that damages the blood vessels in the retina and can eventually lead to blindness. Early detection is the key to preventing diabetic retinopathy, so consultations to ophthalmologists and possibly to a teleretinal imaging clinic are critical.
The OIG discovered that staff in the Ophthalmology Department discontinued consults without adequate justification. Ophthalmology staff inappropriately discontinued 439 of the 1,937 reviewed. It was also discovered that 128 consults were discontinued because the VAMC could not provide the care, and the staff did not take appropriate action to locate non-VA care. The OIG also discovered that ophthalmology staff canceled consults because the department could not provide eye exams to the patients within 30 days. These unethical practices did not lead to a single termination.
Veterans who have elected to use VA medical centers for their health care are receiving substandard care, and the entire VA health care system needs to be reformed. The first step to solving the problems that plague the VA medical centers is to break up the public sector union that has unionized the VA’s workforce. The bureaucrats who work for the VA medical centers enjoy jobs that do not come with expectations and accountability. You have to bust up the union and start operating the VA medical centers like private sector facilities before anything is going to improve for the veterans who depend on them for their health care.