Thousands of veterans have been negatively affected by long appointment wait times for medical care and convoluted scheduling practices at Phoenix's VA hospital, a report released Wednesday by the Department of Veteran Affairs' Office of the Inspector General found. The review "confirmed that inappropriate scheduling practices are systemic throughout VHA," according to the report. The investigation looked into how an apparent "secret" waiting list of veterans waiting for appointments was created and maintained. The retired VA doctor who reported misconduct at the Phoenix hospital alleged that some 40 veterans died while waiting for appointments.
"I respect the independent review and recommendations of the Office of Inspector General (OIG) regarding systemic issues with patient scheduling and access. I have reviewed the interim report, and the findings are reprehensible to me, to this Department, and to Veterans. I am directing that the Phoenix VA Health Care System (VAHCS) immediately triage each of the 1,700 Veterans identified by the OIG to bring them timely care. "I have already placed the Phoenix VAHCS leadership on administrative leave, and have directed an independent site team to assess scheduling and administrative practices at the Phoenix VAHCS. This team began their work in April, and we are already taking action on multiple recommendations from this report. "We will aggressively and fully implement the remaining OIG recommendations to ensure that we contact every single Veteran identified by the OIG. I have directed the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) to complete a nation-wide access review to ensure a full understanding of VA's policy and continued integrity in managing patient access to care. Further, we are accelerating access to care throughout our system and in communities where Veterans reside. "It is important to allow OIG's independent and objective review to proceed until completion. OIG has requested that VA take no additional personnel actions in Phoenix until their review is complete."