A recent USA Today investigation has many people questioning – “Are VA hospitals a haven for medical malpractice?” According to the article published in USA Today in December 2017, The Department of Veterans Affairs has, for years, knowingly hired doctors with previous malpractice claims, as well as those disciplined for providing poor care.
This further begs the question of whether the healthcare and wellbeing of Americans relying on VA hospitals and benefits are being jeopardized. To help our readers better understand the USA Today investigation and subsequent allegations, we offer the following information.
USA Today Investigation Information
When USA Today began investigating healthcare providers hired by the Department of Veterans Affairs, a pattern quickly emerged. A series of complaints and medical malpractice lawsuits filed against doctors with lengthy records and numerous outstanding malpractice claims became evident. One prime example was that of a neurosurgeon, John Henry Schneider.
Schneider applied at a VA hospital in Iowa City, Iowa early in 2017. He was hired despite his application revealing a troubled history, including a license revocation in another state. Over the past several years, Schneider had worked in two states and had racked up more than a dozen medical malpractice claims, including surgical mistakes resulting in serious injury, permanent disability, or death.
Since starting work at the VA hospital, additional complaints have been made by Schneider’s patients. One complaint included a series of four brain surgeries within a month performed on the same patient, who later died. Another complaint included a series of three spinal surgeries made in effort to resolve an infection from the first performed by Schneider.
After the USA Today investigation, it was determined that Schneider’s hiring was illegal, as was likely a number of others. Under Federal law, it is illegal for the Department of Veterans Affairs to hire healthcare providers who have had their medical license revoked by any state board, even if they hold licenses in other states. Schneider’s license in Wyoming was revoked, but he was still licensed in Montana at the time he was hired. A spokesperson for the Department of Veterans Affairs said that officials at the hiring hospital hired Schneider based on “incorrect guidance”. Schneider was set to be terminated but resigned instead.
As of the time of the USA Today report, Schneider still had several outstanding malpractice claims against him, which had been put into limbo after he filed for bankruptcy. For the families of those affected by his allegedly negligent care, justice and recovery are still elusive.
Investigation Reveals Numerous Troubling Claims
As the investigation into Schneider and others continued, USA Today revealed a number of troubling examples similar to that of Schneider. Healthcare providers with troubled, even criminal records, were being allowed to practice at VA hospitals.
For example, a doctor in Oklahoma who had previously been sanctioned for sexual misconduct was found to have slept with a patient admitted to a VA hospital while working there. Another similar example is a VA clinic in Louisiana, who hired a psychologist with a criminal record including felony convictions. In this case, the provider was terminated from the VA clinic after being deemed a threat to others.
Potentially dangerous healthcare providers can be difficult to spot. As a patient, you can do only so much research and investigation into the healthcare providers you choose for you and your family. When unfortunate events arise and you are harmed as a result, it is important to take a stand for your legal rights.
Contact Brown & Brothers to learn more about how we can help you protect your rights and hold accountable negligent healthcare providers.
Why are VA Hospitals Attracting Troubled Doctors?
The USA Today investigation suggests that one of the primary reasons why VA hospitals attract troubled doctors is because these hospitals do not require healthcare providers to provide their own malpractice insurance. Therefore, doctors who have been deemed “troubled” or “too risky” for malpractice insurers to insure can find employment and safety at VA hospitals. Malpractice claims made against VA employees are paid out via taxpayer dollars, not individual malpractice insurance policies.
What is Being Done to Stop Potentially Dangerous Providers?
A spokesperson for the Department of Veterans Affairs said that, in response to the USA Today investigation and subsequent reports, that the agency has enlisted the help of an “independent third-party clinical review” of the care provided by Schneider. It is unclear whether this independent review will look into the actions of other providers.
One of the measures taken to prevent hiring substandard or troubled healthcare providers is the seemingly rigorous vetting process required by VA hospitals and clinics. This process includes a review of references, licenses, education, and a series of interviews. If the provider discloses a troubled history, he or she may be hired at the discretion of hospital or clinic officials based on the explanations and resolutions.
As investigations continue, it is likely that the Department of Veterans Affairs will have to carefully examine their hiring process and look for better ways of protecting the safety and legal rights of their patients.
Getting Help with Medical Malpractice Concerns
No matter what the ailment, the history of the healthcare provider, or the nature or ownership of the facility, substandard medical care is never acceptable. Anyone who believes that they have suffered harm due to the negligence of a healthcare provider should contact an attorney to discuss their legal rights.
Medical malpractice claims can be complicated, but that should not dissuade you from seeking accountability and justice. Contact Brown & Brothers today to learn more about the medical malpractice claims process and how to get started. Fill out our online form to schedule your free case review.