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Columbia VA hospital included in medical malpractice probe

More information is being released about mismanagement and poor care at Veterans Administration hospitals all over the country, including the one in Columbia, South Carolina. What some have claimed to be a successful model of socialized medicine may actually have long wait lists for general care and procedures, delays that may have even led to wrongful death.

An increased demand for services means that staff are trying to handle more than some facilities are equipped to manage. Because pay is frequently not high enough to attract physicians, especially specialized practitioners like gastroenterologists, many of these facilities have backlogs of patients waiting to see doctors.

Although VA hospitals are allowed to refer patients out to private practice physicians, this is a procedure that may not be used often enough. A report from the Inspector General shows that the Columbia VA location received additional funds to help handle a backlog of colonoscopy requests when its list grew to nearly 2,500 waiting for the procedure. Despite this backlog, however, the same location used a little more than a quarter of that funding and several months later pulled back on external referrals, only referring a total of 100 patients in the two months following that decision. Of those 100 patients, 52 were later diagnosed with gastrointestinal malignancies and had to receive delayed treatment as a result.

Although the scandal in the publicly-managed VA hospitals is disturbing, hurried treatments, misdiagnosis, medication errors, surgical errors and wrongful deaths also potentially make it a medical malpractice issue. This is born out in statistics as the VA has, according to the Center for Investigative Reporting, paid more than $200 million in wrongful death settlements since September 11, 2001, and according to other claims it has incurred more than $800 million in malpractice liabilities during the past decade.

Negligence in the medical realm is an issue that affects many. When someone is injured or dies as a result of it a medical malpractice lawsuit may be appropriate.

Source: Wall Street Journal, "The government health-care model," May 22, 2014

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