'Alarming' issues at VA hospitals nationwide could cause medical supply shortages, report says

Abbie Bennett
May 03, 2019 - 3:48 pm

Photo courtesy of House Republicans

VA medical centers nationwide have systemic problems that could lead to shortages of critical supplies for surgery and patient care, according to a report from the agency’s watchdog.

The Department of Veterans Affairs Office of the Inspector General released a report recently which “revealed alarming problems within VA’s management of medical supply inventories at its hospitals nationwide,” House Veterans Affairs Committee chairman Mark Takano, D-Calif., said in a news release this week.

The OIG revealed issues at the VA Medical Center in Washington, D.C. in 2018 before launching a nationwide audit.

The report showed that 19 percent of supplies the OIG reviewed while visiting at least 11 VA medical centers were under-stocked -- potentially putting patients at risk if supplies are not available when needed.

The most notable example was at the DC VA Medical Center, “where medical supplies and sterile instruments were not reaching patient care areas when needed” and investigators found that “leaders failed to respond to repeatedly identified significant deficiencies.”

“As a result of years of inaction, the lack of supplies and properly prepared instruments led to multiple delayed surgical procedures,” the report said.

Earlier this year, the DC VA Medical Center was downgraded to a 1-Star rating, the lowest ranking out of five possible stars, according to the OIG.

“I take issue with any misallocation or mismanagement of resources intended for our nation’s veterans,” Takano said in a statement. “This report identifies troubling major inventory management problems that can affect the safety and quality of care given to our veterans. VA must act to improve the effectiveness and accountability for tracking the availability of medical supplies. We cannot let mismanagement put the care our veterans receive at risk.”

“These supply problems are alarming,” Rep. Chris Pappas, D-N.H., and chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee subpanel on Oversight and Investigations said in a statement. “VA has acknowledged the seriousness of these problems and has promised action. The Committee will review these steps to make sure they will take the VA in the right direction.”

VA spokeswoman Susan Carter told Connecting Vets that the VA had already worked to address those issues, which were uncovered “well over a year ago.”

The report “highlights the type of implementation challenges associated with almost any transition from one inventory system to another,” Carter said. “VHA has overcome all of the challenges highlighted in the report and developed an action plan to address all of the OIG’s recommendations, which we expect to implement by March of 2020.”

The HVAC subpanel on Oversight and Investigations plans to hold a hearing to determine the VA’s progress on resolving those issues later this month, the release said, though a date has yet to be set.

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