More problems with Jackson's VA hospital? - - Jackson, MS

More problems with Jackson's VA hospital?


Last week, the head of the nation's VA system, Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson, revealed what he's doing to improve conditions at the Jackson VA Medical Center and around the country.

Now, one veteran says the Jackson VA hospital's problems are far worse than perhaps even Washington realizes.

"[Gibson]'s been with the VA long enough to know where to look for some of the bodies hidden in the closets," Ret. Maj Gen. Erik Hearon said. "His follow-up here is crucial."

Many of the questions directed to Gibson during the Friday news conference were critical of the Jackson VA.

One mentioned a veteran's complaint about travel reimbursement for treatment.

Gibson took control of the matter and directed his response to hospital management.

"We need to fix that," Gibson said, turning to VA Medical Center Director Joe Battle. "Why don't you give me an update in about a week on how you're doing with that?"

Did Gibson see the extent of the Jackson VA's problems? Hearon remains skeptical.

"This hospital was way ahead of – chronologically -- Phoenix, in terms of fake appointments, and may have actually also involved financial fraud for claiming reimbursement from their central office for appointments that never even happened," Hearon said.

In many cases, Hearon said, those took place through ghost clinics, where no doctor or practitioner was assigned and no patient could receive care.

"The problem is that they will not admit to errors," Hearon said.

Hearon said that's also the policy of the Joint Commission, which investigates cases of alleged neglect within VA hospitals.

"They investigated the death of a veteran who also was an employee of the hospital, and had bled out in the recovery room after they waited about three to four hours to look at him, even though the procedure called for [a check] every fifteen minutes," Hearon said. "The Joint Commission didn't find anything wrong."

Administrators at the Jackson VA disagree with that criticism.

"When errors occur in the medical care that's directly related to something we did at the VA, we own up to that," VISN-16 Network Director Rica Lewis-Payton said Friday during the news conference.

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