TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - It became a campaign issue when it came out Veterans were waiting too long for care in V-A hospitals, and that the hospital systems were rigging their stats to make it look like they were offering speedy care.
A KGUN9 investigation showed that was happening at the Southern Arizona VA. Now a government investigation confirms that with two reports available here and here.
The latest report looked at one clinic within the Southern Arizona VA. The clinic reported almost 58 hundred appointments from December 2013 through August 2014, with an outstanding on-time rate of vets getting the appointment times they wanted 76 percent of the time.
Now V-A investigators have concluded those stats were manipulated to look much better that they really were.
According to the report this is how schedulers made it look like the vets got the appointment they wanted. A vet calls in and says, “Can I get an appointment on the first?” The scheduler says, "I don't have anything, how about the 31st?” The vet agrees to the new time and it goes down in the stats as if the vet agreed to the original request.
The report found supervisors told schedulers to do that.
Jennifer Gutowski, the VA's acting director for Southern Arizona says some of these practices date back eight years.
KGUN9 Reporter Craig smith asked her: “Was it ever determined how these took root and why they became a practice by at least some people here?"
Gutowski said, “I'm not able to answer that perhaps why that was the case. Today we want to encourage people to do the right thing for the veteran and ensure that we're providing quality and timely care."
Now the local VA says it has safeguards to keep workers from manipulating appointment stats, it will try to determine which workers did that, while it works towards systems to help vets get the treatment they need right away.