The Corner

Veterans Affairs ‘Falsifying Reported Wait-Times’

Per the Washington Examiner:

Thousands of orders for diagnostic medical tests have been purged en masse by the Department of Veterans Affairs to make it appear its decade-long backlog is being eliminated, according to documents obtained by the Washington Examiner.

About 40,000 appointments were “administratively closed” in Los Angeles, and another 13,000 were cancelled in Dallas in 2012.

That means the patients did not receive the tests or treatment that had been ordered, but rather the orders for the follow-up procedures were simply deleted from the agency’s records.

It is not known how widespread the practice is, or how many veterans hospitals have mass-purged appointment orders to clear their backlogs.

Alas, this feels all too familiar to someone who grew up with Britain’s National Health Service.

Here’s the thing: when one subordinates healthcare to government, one inevitably gets all of the usual government games. A favorite trick: Mrs. Jones needs a hip replacement, so she calls up her local NHS hospital to arrange it; the NHS tells Mrs. Jones that she should call back in a given amount of time, after which she will be treated within 24 or 48 or 72 hours — or however long the government has promised would elapse between “phone call” and “treatment”; Mrs. Jones waits the requisite amount of time, then calls, then gets her appointment; the state then says semi-truthfully that Mrs. Jones was given a hip replacement “quickly” and that the gap between her requesting the treatment and her receiving the treatment was short. Now, did Mrs. Jones actually get her hip replacement “quickly”? Of course not. She waited both the amount of time that the government recorded and the amount of time that it did not. But who cares? All that matters when the government is elected or fired based on its performance running the health system is what the government is able to say about how it is running the health system. So it lies its damn head off.

Sometimes, it just outright falsifies the documents. As the Telegraph reported last November:

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) found “inaccuracies” with waiting time data relating to cancer treatment at Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust. The chief inspector of hospitals said that patients’ lives may have been put at risk so the trust could give an impression it was meeting waiting list targets.

Essex Police said that it was examining whether a “criminal investigation” was needed.

Prof Sir Mike Richards, the chief inspector of hospitals, said: “If you are diagnosed with cancer, you are entitled to think that your hospital will do all they can to ensure you get treatment you need as soon as possible.

“It is shocking to think that people’s lives may have been put at risk for the sake of the waiting time figures.” A number of cancer patients suffered “undue delays” which were not accurately recorded by the trust, the commission said.

What exactly do you think happens when the NHS fails, as it so often does? Here’s an indication, from the Telegraph last month:

Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, has insisted that inaccuracies in hospital waiting time figures are not the result of deliberate manipulation.

He was responding to a National Audit Office report which found one in four hospitals is recording false waiting list times, with patients waiting on average three weeks longer than NHS records show.

Patients groups have said the findings were “scandalous,” and that hospital managers had been able to routinely fiddle figures so they could claim to be hitting Government waiting time targets, when patients were enduring far longer waits for care.

Mr Hunt said that although the report identifies “inconsistencies”, hospitals are not “deliberately misrepresenting”, but he warned any hospitals that do falsify figures in the future will face criminal charges.

This man, by the way, is a Conservative. But it doesn’t matter. Because patients have the central authority to blame, and not their insurance company or state or hospital, they have little choice but to fight the government in London and to hope that someone a long way away agrees to make changes. How much success do you think people have getting their problems remedied?

Veterans Affairs and the NHS run slightly different, yes. But the principle is the same. And lets be blunt here: Veterans Affairs isn’t just a dysfunctional department but the blueprint for the system to which the Left would like to see everybody subjected. As the Examiner confirms,

the practice fits a long-standing pattern at VA of falsifying reported wait-times to make it appear individual medical centers are meeting department goals of ensuring patients get the medical care they need within the deadlines set by policy.

Performance reviews and bonuses of top hospital administrators are linked to meeting those goals.

Political careers are, too, and they are much more dangerous. Don’t attach your healthcare to the performance reviews of politicians. It never works out well.


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