WASHINGTON – The nation’s head of veteran health services told lawmakers Wednesday that a preliminary review found no evidence to support recent allegations of corruption and unnecessary deaths at the agency’s hospital in Phoenix.
The Phoenix Veterans Health Care Center has been under fire in recent weeks over allegations that up to 40 patients may have died because of delays in care and that, to hide delays in treatment, the hospital kept a secret list of patients waiting for appointments.
“To date, we have found no evidence of a secret list, and we have found no patients who have died because they have been on a wait list,” said Robert Petzel, undersecretary for health at the Veterans Health Administration.
Petzel’s comments came during a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing in Washington.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs inspector general is investigating allegations that have prompted outrage from political leaders in Arizona and around the country. A trio of Arizona congressmen this week called on the head of the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care Center to step down.
In the past year, VA facilities in South Carolina, Florida, Georgia and Washington state have been linked to delays in patient care or poor oversight.
Dr. Samuel Foote, who had worked for the Phoenix VA for more than 20 years before retiring in December, brought the allegations to light and says his complaints to his supervisors were ignored. He accused Arizona VA leaders of collecting bonuses for reducing patient wait times, but he said the purported successes resulted from data manipulation rather than improved service for veterans.