A CNN investigation, coupled with a VA internal investigation, has found that delays at the Williams Jennings Bryan Dorn Veterans Medical Center in Columbia, South Carolina are having catastrophic consequences for this country’s veterans. The investigation revealed that several-month delays in performing routine gastrointestinal procedures, such as colonoscopies or endoscopies, resulted in at least six veterans dying of cancer before clinicians could detect it. The delayed diagnoses could be impacting as many as twenty additional vets’ struggles with cancer. Obviously, the earlier cancer, or pre-cancerous polyps are detected, the better the patient’s chance for survival.
What’s worse? The Department of Veterans Affairs knew about the problem, yet has done little to rectify it. Dorn has a growing backlog of over 3,800 patients, which has resulted in many screening and preventive procedures being delayed or canceled entirely in favor of more urgent procedures. In addition, the hospital received a $1 million appropriation from Congress to address the backlog issue, but the investigation revealed that only 1/3 of that money was actually being used to help with the backlog.
Finally, Dorn may not be the only VA hospital with a backlog issue. The VA also acknowledged that it investigated delays at facilities in Atlanta, North Texas and Jackson, Mississippi, but denied that delays at any of those facilities have had any adverse impact on patients. While the publicity is new, apparently this is a longstanding problem in the VA hospital system.
Read more on the investigation at CNN.