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Misdiagnosis, negligence blamed for 4 dead in one VA hospital?

In New Jersey and nationwide recent revelations of deficient medical care in VA facilities has resulted in thorough investigations of these facilities. In one case, it was recently learned that the families of four veterans settled claims for wrongful death against one VA medical clinic. The cases were settled from 2005 through 2011, and the total of the four payments is $1.4 million. According to a report from the Center for Investigative Reporting, negligence, misdiagnosis, failure to monitor, and mismanagement were factors in the cases.

The fact that four veterans died in one institution within a few years of each other, and that the VA settled each of the cases, tends to indicate an institution that was poorly managed, poorly staffed, and possibly poorly funded. It also lends credence to the apparent national consensus that the problems are systemic and not isolated. The extent to which these four deaths may indicate widespread negligence and neglect will likely be learned in the coming months.

According to the report, two of the cases at a Pennsylvania VA Hospital in Coatesville involved the failure to monitor a patient. Another case involved improper management of a psychiatric patient. A fourth case involved a failure to diagnose or a wrongful diagnosis of a patient.

The report revealed that the four settlements are just a tiny fraction of the 1,000 wrongful death claims that have been settled for a reported $200 million. The U.S. Inspector General reports that 26 facilities are being investigated nationwide. In the notorious case of the Phoenix VA Hospital, it is reported that 40 veterans died while waiting for appointments and treatment.

Based on admissions that the problems are systemic, it will not be surprising if inadequate care in the VA facilities in New Jersey is discovered. However, the failure to diagnose, misdiagnosis, and the failure to properly monitor a patient’s condition are deficiencies endemic not only in VA facilities. They are also readily found in some of the seemingly best and most modern healthcare facilities. Thus, it is widely reported that many of thousands of people die each year from doctor and hospital negligence nationally.

Source: The Mercury News, "4 medical malpractice suits against Coatesville VA clinic settled for $1M", Kristina Scala, May 22, 2014

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Alan D. Bell
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