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No defense for VA actions regarding negligent doctors

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs runs the largest health care system in the country. It employs more health care workers than any other organization. It is, therefore, in a powerful position to set and maintain standards of care. A recent investigation uncovered disturbing practices that demonstrate a careless disregard for the outcomes of patients in and out of the VA system.

Unfit medical practitioners

A doctor who routinely injures or endangers patients through incompetence or other negligent conduct should not be allowed to continue practicing. Unfortunately, many hospitals ignore dangerous practitioners or simply pass the problem along to the next employer. Such was the case at many VA hospitals. The USA Today investigation found that dangerous health care workers would receive secret settlement deals with veterans’ hospitals that allowed them to move on to other hospitals with a clean reference. Even when the VA was willing to ban the employee from its facilities, it did nothing to prevent the provider from going on to the next job and hurting patients there.

No reporting

Notably, the VA did nothing to make sure that dangerous providers were reported to the applicable state licensing boards. While these boards have their own problems, they play an important role in identifying health care providers who should not be allowed to treat patients. Without this reporting, doctors can commit the same mistakes time and again, injuring or even killing patients through their malpractice.

VA hospitals are not alone in ignoring the safety of patients through their policies and actions. The health care industry has a long history of protecting its own at the expense of the people it is intended to serve. The victims of medical negligence are often forced to pursue legal remedies to discover the full truth about the harm they suffered.

Source: USA Today, “VA conceals shoddy care and health workers’ mistakes," by Donovan Slack and Michael Sallah, 11 October 2017

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