After embattled VA Undersecretary for Health, Dr. Robert Petzel announced his resignation/retirement, the Obama Administration nominated Dr. Jeffery Murawsky, a regional VA director as his replacement. Dr. Murawsky’s current portfolio, however, includes overseeing the large Edward Hines Jr. VA hospital outside Chicago. Given the problems plaguing that VA hospital, though, the personnel reshuffle may be a distinction without a difference.
According to a whistleblower, Germaine Carno, veterans calling the Hines facility for help are placed on secret waiting lists. Carno says that administrators view two, three or four month wait times as “normal.” Carno charges that the secret wait list is used to allow the hospital to achieve its goals and maintain lucrative bonuses for staff.
The VA scandal first broke with revelations about a secret waiting list at the Phoenix VA hospital. The director of the Phoenix facility, who is currently on leave, was previously director of the Hines facility outside of Chicago. Information obtained through FOIA requests filed by the organization “Open the Books” finds the Chicago hospital shares many similarities with the Phoenix hospital. Actually, a close review reveals the problems in Chicago are potentially much worse.
For the three years ending in 2013, the Hines facility spent over $1 billion on salaries for over 4,200 employees. Yet, just 309 of these employees are doctors. Add in 670 nurses and 75 practical nurses, and less than a quarter of the total employees provide direct medical care. The Hines facility claims it had 600,000 patient visits in 2010 and provided care to 54,000 veterans.