- Recent revelations just the tip of the iceberg
A number of issues have surfaced, lately, concerning our local Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Northport, NY. The most recent of which has been the controversy and apparent cover-up of the closing down of all the Operating Suites at the Medical Center. I was hearing rumors, then being told by reliable sources inside the Hospital, about the true nature of the closings and the true nature of the reason for the closings. The “management” would have us all believe that miniscule particles of rust were occasionally emerging from the climate control air ducting in the ceilings. A plausibly deniable reason was given for this phenomenon and all further communication went oddly silent. Fortunately for our Veteran Community, this didn’t last too long before the local Press and our local Congressmen got a hold of it. Once that hit the fan, the “problem” was remedied in the matter of days; after languishing in limbo for four months. What most of the Veterans thought was actually coming out of those ceiling vents, black mold, has been corroborated by the same reliable sources.
It hurts me to say that since that whole fiasco, I have been made aware of some more equally (if not more) damaging information regarding the “management” of this Medical Center. I have been pulled aside and given a detailed insight to other deeds of mismanagement, which, in my opinion, may border on illegal and criminal. I have corroborated these tidbits of information with other sources, and to a person, what were just rumors have been confirmed as standard operating procedure here at the Northport VAMC. I have also been directed, as a Veteran stakeholder, to bring these allegations and/or practices to the attention of the United States Office of Special Counsel. From what I have been told, the Veterans Affairs Office of the Inspector General is singing the Company tune, drinking the Kool-Aide, and is completely incompetent in dealing with type and amount of corruption inside this Bureaucracy. The Office of Special Counsel is primarily a layer of protection for governmental whistleblowers. If this is the case, consider me a governmental whistleblower.
v Medical Department Heads and Senior Staff have been either showing up for work visibly intoxicated, or becoming so during the workday. I’m sure CARF, the nonprofit accreditor of health and human services (http://www.carf.org/home/), the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) (https://www.cms.gov/), and the Healthcare Facilities Accreditation Program (HFAP) ( http://www.hfap.org/) would be very interested in looking into this. And, how about the local and National Press; just to name a few......
v The aforementioned may be unethical at many levels, but this next situation has to border on criminal. I have been told that there are at least a handful of medical Doctors who are being paid a full-time salary at the VAMC, Northport, and are not required to show up for work. Indeed, they are enjoying the fruits of private practice, and earning a full paycheck from that source. Forget about Hospital Accreditation Agencies, I have a sneaking suspicion that the United States Judicial System might be very interested in taking long, hard look at these allegations.
As it is said in the business, “Watch this space!”
As the title mentions, this is just the tip of what may be a very large iceberg. It seems, the deeper you dig into the inner workings of our Veterans health care system, the more devastating unethical and criminal practices you find. There are the obvious short-term solutions to these problems, but what is needed is a complete overhaul and long-term solution to what is ailing our Veterans’ National health care system under the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. I have looked at this situation for the past five years. I have tried to come up with the root cause of the problems, and the long-term solution that will right this ship. After all, our Nation’s Veterans are depending on a health care system that works as advertised and promised; they deserve no less for the service they have provided us all.
What I think I have discovered is that the very structure of the Department of Veterans Affairs, especially the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), is what leads to a certain bureaucratic culture that necessarily breeds incompetence, unethical behaviors, arrogance and indifference toward its clientele. I don’t want to make this a blanket condemnation of each and every VA employee, but I have to say, based on observation, these personnel characteristics seem to run deep throughout the entire system.
A primary premise in coming up with a cure is the undeniable fact that the vast majority of this Nation’s Veterans do not feel comfortable, or understood, when dealing with private sector medical and mental health care. So, instead of trashing the entire system, let’s try to reorganize this Department in such a way that will enable it to properly and efficiently serve our Veterans. We do not need to reinvent the wheel; all the necessary parts already exist. A proper reshuffling of the deck is something that can realistically be done, and done in a relatively short period of time. Once I have gotten a foothold in Congress with my Mandatory Military Separation Transition Program (MMSTP), I am going to focus full-time on putting together a blueprint for reorganizing the Department of Veterans Affairs. If you can change the structure, you can change the culture. Hey, somebody has to do it!