VA Hospitals Have a History of Botching Colonoscopies and Putting Veterans at Risk

VA Hospitals Have a History of Botching Colonoscopies and Putting Veterans at RiskThere is a documented history of problems at VA hospitals throughout the country (the 2007 Walter Reed scandal actually has its own Wikipedia page). South Carolina’s William Jennings Bryan Dorn VA Medical Center in Columbia, and the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston, are no exceptions; in fact, if you do a quick online search of any VA facility, you are bound to find links to problems or scandals.

The problem with botched colonoscopies is not unique to the South Carolina VA. In fact, the first big reveal came in 2007, when it was discovered that up to 10,000 patients may have been exposed to HIV and hepatitis. The facilities in question – in Tennessee, in Georgia and in Florida – had been equipment that may or may not have been defective, and that may or may not have been sterilized correctly.

Things have not gotten better. In 2013, the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of the Attorney General (OIG) collected and reviewed data specifically about Dorn, in regards to a backlog of gastrointestinal (GI) consult cases and botched colonoscopies. In the report, it alleges:

  • “Nursing leadership failed to fill critical GI nurse positions.
  • Non-clinical staff and leaders were making clinical decisions regarding patient care and were not permitting clinical leaders to participate in decision-making. As a result, patient care was being compromised and the department is in ‘chaos.’
  • Of $1M in funds given by the VISN to pay for Fee Basis colonoscopies, only $200K was actually spent for this service.”

The report also finds that between July 2011 and October 2012, when the backlog of patients had reached almost critical mass, there were “280 patients were diagnosed with GI malignancies, 52 of which had been associated with a delay in diagnosis and treatment” (emphasis ours).

The takeaway from this report about Dorn VA Medical Center

Hospitals around the country are suffering from a shortage of staff and funds (or so they say). Here, we have an example of a medical center given funds specifically to address a backlog, and what happened? They did virtually nothing. As a result, 52 service people – the men and women who volunteered to defend us from enemies both foreign and domestic – have developed cancer because their treatment was delayed.

Despite the Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014 which gave the VA hospitals around our country additional (and substantial) funds to equip their hospitals, and the power to fire or demote senior VA managers who are not doing their jobs or to simply provide competent medical care, the problem with medical care to our military veterans still persists. In January 2016, South Carolina veteran Barry Coates died from cancer, after being made to wait for a colonoscopy for an entire year. reports that Mr. Coates begged for an appointment, to no avail. By the time anyone performed the procedure, he had Stage IV cancer.

At McGowan, Hood, Felder & Phillips, LLC, we believe our veterans deserve better, much better, than this type of care. We have filed lawsuits and administrative claims for veterans on the issue of failure to perform colonoscopies and many other medical negligence related matters. We feel that we have a responsibility to fight for justice for the members of our armed forces, just as they fight for us. If your cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment was delayed because of a backlog at the VA, or because you only had access to underqualified healthcare providers, we may be able to help. To schedule your free consultation with an experienced South Carolina Veterans Administration medical malpractice attorney, please call 803-327-7800 or use our contact form. Let us help.

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