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Small VA hospitals raise concern over hospital staff negligence

For the last several months, the health care scandal surrounding Veterans’ Administration hospitals has captured news headlines. Everything from delayed care to misreported statistics, to deaths has been reported as shortcomings of an overburdened system. But another aspect of the crisis has apparently been underreported.

While much of the focus has been on larger facilities, those are actually the exception in the military health care system. The typical hospital is a small facility, some of which serve a few as 10 patients a day. One of these smaller hospitals is located in South Carolina. That emergency care at that facility has already been eliminated, although inpatient care is still offered.

One of the reasons given by medical professionals for the failing quality of care in these smaller facilities is that the small number of patients being seen by the small hospitals negatively affects the experience of the medical professionals. This may result in a failure to diagnose and treat serious illnesses and a lack of experience in performing complicated medical procedures.

The statements of leaders in the military health community may provide some reasons for the problems. The mission and the business model of the military health system seem to be at odds with one another.

Officials say that the primary mission of the system is to train doctors and nurses to handle combat injuries. But the business model is more of a community hospital system providing low-cost care for everything from childbirth to elective surgery such as breast augmentations.

Another issue seems somewhat akin to the problems that have plagued the VA system. The Pentagon provides surgical data to outside sources for only 17 of the largest military hospitals, leaving incidents of hospital negligence that occur at the smaller facilities not only underreported but likely less subject to investigation.

Medical malpractice at any facility, large or small, civilian or military, should be examined in a legal context. A law firm with experience in medical malpractice cases is a critical part of evaluation of any possible claim of negligence in the medical community.

Source: The New York Times, “Smaller Military Hospitals Said to Put Patients at Risk,” Sharon LaFraniere and Andrew W. Lehren, Sept. 1, 2014

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