Saginaw VA Medical Center settles whistleblower complaint with employee | MLive.com

SAGINAW, MI — The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has settled a whistleblower complaint involving a nursing assistant at the Aleda E. Lutz VA Medical Center in Saginaw.

Mark Tello was suspended from his job as a nursing assistant after telling his supervisor about staffing shortages at the medical center, according to a press release from the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.

“In August 2013, he told his supervisor that management was not properly staffing the VAMC and that this could result in serious patient care lapses,” the press release stated. “The VAMC then issued a proposed removal, which was later reduced to a 5-day suspension that Tello served in January 2014.”

Tello was again proposed for removal from his position in June 2014, according to the Office of Special Counsel’s press release.

Carrie Seward, the medical center’s public affairs officer, said privacy issues and employee rights prevented her from answering any questions about Tello and the settlement.

via Saginaw VA Medical Center settles whistleblower complaint with employee | MLive.com.

New Jersey Doctor Arrested for Conspiring with Drug Dealer to Distribute Oxycodone | The Shore News Network

TRENTON – Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced that a medical doctor from Union County has been arrested on charges he conspired with a drug dealer and others to illegally distribute thousands of high-dose pills of the addictive painkiller oxycodone by writing fraudulent prescriptions for individuals he never treated or examined.Dr. Eugene Evans Jr., 56, of Roselle Park, N.J., was arrested yesterday by special agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in Canandaigua, New York, where he does work in a hospital. Evans was charged by complaint-warrant with second-degree conspiracy, second-degree distribution of a controlled dangerous substance, and third-degree obtaining a controlled dangerous substance by fraud. He waived extradition from New York, and was transported yesterday to New Jersey, where he was processed on the state charges and lodged in the Monmouth County Jail with bail set at $50,000.The charges are the result of an investigation by the DEA New Jersey Field Division Tactical Diversion Squad and the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice Prescription Fraud Investigation Strike Team (PFIST). The DEA Tactical Diversion Squad is made up of special agents of the DEA, task force officers from local police departments, and diversion investigators.“When corrupt healthcare professionals cash in on the black market for opiate pain pills by fraudulently prescribing and diverting oxycodone, they are every bit as culpable as the street dealers, gangsters and cartel members who similarly profit from the deadly epidemic of prescription opiate and heroin addiction in New Jersey,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “Evans is the first doctor we are prosecuting through our new Prescription Fraud Investigation Strike Team, which we formed to target these ruthless profiteers within the healthcare industry. We will continue to work closely with the DEA to arrest those who peddle addiction and death.”

via New Jersey Doctor Arrested for Conspiring with Drug Dealer to Distribute Oxycodone | The Shore News Network.

VA responsible for vet’s suicide, Mom says

In the weeks preceding his death, Janos Victor Lutz — “John,” as his friends knew him — told VA doctors he was slightly depressed over a breakup with a girlfriend, his ailing service dog and his lack of focus after serving in the Marine Corps.

The Iraq and Afghanistan veteran told his psychiatrist and a therapist at the Broward County (Florida) VA Outpatient Clinic that he had been suicidal a few weeks prior and had asked his mother to secure his guns and dole out his medications.

But he also said he wasn’t considering self-harm at the time of his appointments and had no plans to commit suicide. He complained that a medication he’d been given for anxiety and insomnia, temazepam, made him excessively sleepy and said he’d stopped taking another — buproprion for depression — months before but didn’t say why.

According to VA records, the doctors encouraged Lutz to return to buproprion and switched his second medication to clonazepam, also known as Klonopin, a drug similar to temazepam used to treat panic attacks and sleep problems.

Because Lutz had tried three years before to commit suicide by overdosing, his psychiatrist ordered “a short supply of medication for safety precautions” on Jan. 4, 2013.

The next week, Lutz again saw his therapist and psychiatrist. He told physicians he’d been sleeping better on Klonopin, and according to VA records, asked for a dosage increase. He told his physician he was not feeling suicidal.

The following day, Lutz took a bike ride, went shopping with his father, and, according to his mother, appeared to be “at peace.”

But later that day, the former Marine machine gunner returned to his childhood bedroom and ingested large amounts of morphine, buproprion and Klonopin along with a few beers.

He was found on his floor, the letters “DNR” — for “Do Not Resuscitate” — written on his forehead in black marker.

via VA responsible for vet’s suicide, Mom says.

VA to probe Tomah allegations : Tomah Journal

VA to probe allegations of medical malpractice at the Department of Veteran Affairs hospital in Tomah

VA to probe allegations of medical malpractice at the Department of Veteran Affairs hospital in Tomah

The Department of Veterans Affairs is launching two new investigations at the Tomah VA Medical Center in response to recent media reports of over medication and workplace intimidation.

The investigations come in the wake of a story by the Center for Investigative Reporting, reprinted in Monday’s Tribune, that said the number of opiates prescribed more than quintupled over the past decade, even as the number of veterans seeking care at the hospital declined.

According to the report, one veteran died of a drug overdose while at the hospital, and patients have taken to calling the Tomah facility “Candy Land.”

The VA said in a statement Thursday it is “actively reviewing allegations of retaliatory behavior and over medication at Tomah.” Within the next two weeks, a team from the Veterans Health Administration will look into opiate prescription practices while the VA’s Office of Overview and Accountability will examine claims that senior medical personnel created an atmosphere of intimidation.

via VA to probe Tomah allegations : Tomah Journal.

VA will pay $20 million to settle lawsuit over stolen laptop’s data – CNN.com

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The Department of Veterans Affairs has agreed to pay $20 million to current and former military personnel to settle a class action lawsuit on behalf of the men and women whose personal data was on a laptop computer stolen during a burglary.

The names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers of about 26.5 million active duty troops and veterans were on the laptop and external drive, which disappeared while in the custody of a Veterans Affairs data analyst in 2006.

The theft led to an urgent search by federal authorities that ended with recovery of the laptop and a conclusion that the missing data had not been improperly used.

“The defendants [VA] have agreed to pay a lump sum of $20 million to the plaintiffs inclusive of fees and costs in exchange for the dismissal of this litigation,” according to the settlement document.

In a statement, the VA said it “is committed to being the ‘gold standard’ in data security, just as we are a leader in the health care industry. We want to assure veterans there is no evidence that the information involved in this incident was used to harm a single veteran.”

The settlement, announced in U.S. District Court in Washington, was reached “in the interests of avoiding the expense, delay, and inconvenience of further litigation of the issues raised in the class complaints,” the agreement says.

The funds will go to military personnel and veterans who were harmed by the loss of personal data, either through emotional distress or through costs incurred in monitoring credit records.

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The settlement ends nearly three years of litigation. After the May 3, 2006, theft, five veterans groups filed the class action suit initially seeking $1,000 in damages for every veteran whose information was compromised in the computer theft.

On June 29, 2006, the FBI announced the stolen laptop had been recovered and that it appeared no one had accessed the personal data. The FBI said it believes the laptop was taken in a routine burglary.

via VA will pay $20 million to settle lawsuit over stolen laptop’s data – CNN.com.

General Surgery News – Quality-of-Care Measures in Acute GI Bleeding Cuts Hospital Stay

Chicago—In patients with acute gastrointestinal bleeding, meeting quality-of-care indicators reduces length of stay in the hospital, a study has found.

The retrospective study, involving 700 patients, is consistent with a series of other initiatives suggesting that adhering to and documenting quality indicators improves outcomes in practice.

The quality indicators most associated with a reduced length of stay (LOS) were performance of orthostatics in patients with normal vitals, placement of large-bore IV lines and appropriate deployment or non-deployment of hemostasis, said Carl Nordstrom, MD, chief GI fellow in the University of California, Los Angeles’ integrated gastroenterology training program.

Of the 26 quality indicators that were considered, adherence to eight was evaluated, according to Dr. Nordstrom, who presented the findings at Digestive Disease Week 2014 (abstract 330). In addition to the four indicators most closely associated with LOS, these included appropriate documentation of nasogastric lavage findings, admission of hypovolemic patients to an ICU, endoscopy within 24 hours and use of a large-bore therapeutic endoscope.

The patients were treated over a 10-year period (1996-2007) at a single Veterans Affairs medical center. In general, the greater the number of quality indicators met, the shorter the hospital stay, the researchers found. This included a significant difference in the average stay between those in whom a single quality indicator was met and those without any documented quality indicators (6.5 vs. 10 days; P=0.003). Although the difference for those in whom four to six quality indicators were achieved was only marginally better than for those with one to three, the average stay for those in whom all eight quality indicators were met was only four days.

The researchers found no association between quality indicators and a patient’s risk for death, but incremental increases in the number of quality indicators performed were linked to a substantial reduction in the need for a second endoscopy in addition to the reduction in LOS.

“There is a large variation in the process of care among institutions for acute gastrointestinal bleeds,” Dr. Nordstrom said. He suggested that these data provide evidence that the quality indicators could reduce hospital stays, if not improve overall outcomes in gastrointestinal (GI) bleeds, but cautioned that these findings “should be confirmed in a prospective study.”

Using quality indicators to guide care is a growing phenomenon. In colonoscopy, for example, some third-party payors are considering documentation of quality indicators, such as an endoscope withdrawal time of at least six minutes, for reimbursement. In managing GI bleeds, however, Dr. Nordstrom said prospective evidence is needed to show that adhering to such indicators affects outcomes.

James Scheiman, MD, professor of gastroenterology at the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor, said it is critical to demonstrate that establishing these kinds of processes of care actually changes physician behavior.

“Is it that quality indicators matter or do better doctors do better with quality indicators?” he asked. He expressed concern about “pop up” reminders in electronic medical record systems calling for physicians to perform quality measures not yet proven to affect outcome.

Improving processes of care must be aligned with incentives in an integrated health care system that both encourages and facilitates physicians to adhere, Dr. Scheiman said. Quality indicators are useful and have the potential to improve outcomes while reducing cost, he added, but their real value emerges “if we can get people who are not very good at this to do it better.”

via General Surgery News – Quality-of-Care Measures in Acute GI Bleeding Cuts Hospital Stay.

NPR Exposes a Mysterious Disparity in Benefits at Scandal-Ridden VA | The Fiscal Times

e Department of Veterans Affairs has been wracked with scandal over shredding benefit claims from injured soldiers in an effort to cover up the inordinately long waiting lists to see a doctor or get a procedure that VA officials have acknowledged contributed to dozens of deaths.

Now we learn from National Public Radio that there is a vast disparity in how much the VA spends on veteran benefits and medical treatment, depending on where they live. As it turns out, geography is destiny for veterans when it comes to tapping into VA benefits, including health care, monthly disability checks, home loans, life insurance and education through the GI bill.

Related: 7 of the Most Outrageous Abuses at VA Medical Centers

Based on a review of data from 3,000 counties throughout the country, NPR and several affiliate radio stations found extraordinary variations in coverage from state to state – and even within states – on how much the VA spends per veteran.

Among the states, West Virginia and Arkansas were the highest per veteran spending in 2013 – or just over $7,600 — while Indiana, New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania had the lowest – or less than $5,000 a year. Other states near the top include New Mexico, South Dakota and Oklahoma, while others near the bottom include Michigan, Ohio, Iowa and Illinois.

Nationally, the average is just over $6,000, according to NPR, and that figure was calculated after filtering out factors such as the cost of building and operating VA facilities.

But those are just average expenditures based on the overall population of veterans. When NPR examined how much the VA spends on health services “per patient,” those costs also varied widely.  For instance, spending is nearly $30,000 per patient in San Francisco, but less than $7,000 per patient in Lubbock, TX. Nationally, the average expenditure per patient is just below $10,000.

via NPR Exposes a Mysterious Disparity in Benefits at Scandal-Ridden VA | The Fiscal Times.

NPR Exposes a Mysterious Disparity in Benefits at Scandal-Ridden VA | The Fiscal Times

e Department of Veterans Affairs has been wracked with scandal over shredding benefit claims from injured soldiers in an effort to cover up the inordinately long waiting lists to see a doctor or get a procedure that VA officials have acknowledged contributed to dozens of deaths.

Now we learn from National Public Radio that there is a vast disparity in how much the VA spends on veteran benefits and medical treatment, depending on where they live. As it turns out, geography is destiny for veterans when it comes to tapping into VA benefits, including health care, monthly disability checks, home loans, life insurance and education through the GI bill.

Related: 7 of the Most Outrageous Abuses at VA Medical Centers

Based on a review of data from 3,000 counties throughout the country, NPR and several affiliate radio stations found extraordinary variations in coverage from state to state – and even within states – on how much the VA spends per veteran.

Among the states, West Virginia and Arkansas were the highest per veteran spending in 2013 – or just over $7,600 — while Indiana, New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania had the lowest – or less than $5,000 a year. Other states near the top include New Mexico, South Dakota and Oklahoma, while others near the bottom include Michigan, Ohio, Iowa and Illinois.

Nationally, the average is just over $6,000, according to NPR, and that figure was calculated after filtering out factors such as the cost of building and operating VA facilities.

But those are just average expenditures based on the overall population of veterans. When NPR examined how much the VA spends on health services “per patient,” those costs also varied widely.  For instance, spending is nearly $30,000 per patient in San Francisco, but less than $7,000 per patient in Lubbock, TX. Nationally, the average expenditure per patient is just below $10,000.

via NPR Exposes a Mysterious Disparity in Benefits at Scandal-Ridden VA | The Fiscal Times.

VA destroyed records, punished whistleblower in patient death, complaint alleges – Washington Times

Staff at the VA’s Cleveland medical center destroyed records into the death of a patient to avoid unwanted publicity, then punished a whistleblower and put her under surveillance after she revealed lapses in the patient’s care, the woman charged in a recent complaint.

Patricia Leligdon said superiors began retaliating against her in 2010 after she reported that VA medical staff could have done more to prevent the death of a veteran who died after an “altercation” with another veteran at a VA outpatient mental health clinic, according to a federal whistleblower lawsuit she recently filed against the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The accusations come as the VA tries to assure its own employees and Congress that whistleblowers won’t be retaliated against for reporting on patient safety and management problems.

via VA destroyed records, punished whistleblower in patient death, complaint alleges – Washington Times.

Phoenix VA employee alleges suicides mishandled at hospital – ABC15 Arizona

He alleges veteran suicides are mishandled at the Carl. T. Hayden VA Medical Center.

This comes months after the VA scandal broke and whistleblowers came forward, alleging a secret list of patient wait times and widespread mismanagement at the Phoenix VA.

RELATED: More VA stories

Brandon Coleman has filed for whistleblower protection with the Office of Special Counsel, which means he should be protected as a federal employee for speaking out.

He said his supervisors told him he’d be fired if he came forward with his concerns.

But Coleman wants something to change, so he’s breaking the silence.

“I’m a proud veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and I choose to use the Phoenix VA for a lot of my health care,” Coleman said.

Coleman is an addiction therapist at the Phoenix VA. He helped develop a 52-week outpatient program for veterans enrolled in Veterans Court.

via Phoenix VA employee alleges suicides mishandled at hospital – ABC15 Arizona.