Sadly, this news should not surprise anyone. In another expose from USA Today, it is shown that the VA doesn’t do a very good job of vetting the doctors it hires. A couple of weeks ago the GAO reported that the VA does a poor job of reporting bad healthcare providers to the appropriate agencies so I guess no one should be shocked that the VA is also careless in who it hires. Who suffers? Veterans, of course.
The VA Medical Center in Iowa City is pictured in 2014.(Photo: Press-Citizen file photo) (Photo: Press-Citizen) It’s not that the VA is not willing to pay doctors at a market rate. Indeed, in some specialties, such as in the mental health fields, it often pays providers more than they would make in private practice. Nor does the VA grossly overwork its healthcare providers. By most accounts with which I am familiar on average VA providers usually see fewer patients per day than doctors in private practice. If we just look at the basic economics one would think that the VA should not have a problem hiring good people so what is going on here? Well, look at it this way: Would you want to work with an agency that is so often so dysfunctional? All things being equal, most of us would choose a different option. In that regard doctors are no different than anyone else. To use popular bizspeak, the VA has a bad “culture” that is often not conducive to giving veterans that best care it can. This being the case, the VA doesn’t get its share of the good providers and ends up taking more than its share of the bad ones.
We have dealt with VA cases for close to 20 years now and I have been involved in medical cases for over 30 years. In the last couple of decades that is pretty much all I have done. What is especially sad to me is that there are many doctors and other healthcare providers in the VA who are good at what they do. They are conscientious and consistently try to help their patients. I cannot imagine the frustration they must feel trying to work in this system.
Problems with the VHA are old news. Real changes and real improvements in the care it provides to our veterans would be welcome and truly breaking news. Maybe someday we will see that headline. I hope so.