Veterans With Cancer Died After Delays at VA Hospital

Patients at a Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in New Mexico who were eventually diagnosed with cancer experienced delays in care that put their health at risk, according to the agency’s inspector general.Dozens of veterans who tested positive for colorectal cancer at the New Mexico VA Health Care System in Albuquerque were not notified of their results in a timely manner, according to the inspector general report released this week, which faulted a lack of oversight from the system’s leadership.Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Screening can detect the cancer in its early stages, making it easier to beat.Nine veterans who sought care at the New Mexico VA hospital in fiscal years 2013 and 2014 and who were eventually diagnosed with colorectal cancer “experienced delays and, in some instances, significant delays that may have affected the patients’ clinical outcomes,” investigators found.These patients represented 38 percent of the veterans serviced by the hospital who were diagnosed with colorectal cancer during the two-year period reviewed.For three of the veterans, mismanagement at the hospital resulted in them waiting three, eight, and nine months respectively before being notified of their positive colorectal screening; another veteran was never notified, only to be diagnosed with cancer after approaching his doctor with pain nine months later. VA policy at the time of the review mandated that hospital staffers notify patients of results within 14 days, meaning that the veterans’ delays were as much as 20 times the acceptable wait period.Two of the four veterans who were put at risk by care delays died after undergoing chemotherapy and other procedures.Through a review of electronic health records, the inspector general identified an additional 133 veterans who also may not have received “appropriate notification” of their positive tests or follow-up colonoscopies, which are mandated by VA policy.

Read More: Veterans With Cancer Died After Delays at VA Hospital

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