The PJ Tatler

Albuquerque VA Assigned 3000 Patients to Doctor Who Never Saw Them

Just when you think it can’t get uglier

Officials at a Veterans Affairs medical center in Albuquerque say as many as 3,000 patients were assigned to a doctor who didn’t actually see them, a New Mexico congresswoman said Wednesday.

The officials told U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., that the practice of putting patients without primary care doctors into a separate pool was part of an effort to balance demand and a shortage of doctors at a facility that handled nearly 660,000 outpatient visits last year.

They said the health of patients was monitored and those who needed urgent care were seen either in clinics, emergency rooms or squeezed onto the schedule of another doctor, but it wasn’t immediately clear whether the practice put any veterans at risk.

It also wasn’t clear how long they waited to be assigned to a doctor. Officials said the practice began in summer 2012 and lasted until January 2014, but they have not said what prompted the end of the program.

The congressional staffers were told nearly two-thirds of patients at the Albuquerque VA medical center are seen within a 14-day window, but Lujan Grisham questioned the data given that VA officials weren’t initially forthcoming about the patient pool.

If their health was being monitored, why is it unclear if any were at risk?

This is the nightmare of a single payer system that exists in a country with a private backup. Imagine if it were the only option. These things that have been coming to light are not anomalies, they’re pretty standard fare for single payer health care, especially the numbers fudging that blew the whole scandal up in the first place.

Many (including me) have chronicled such things happening in the UK for a while now. Sadly, it’s almost like an airline disaster — something tragic had to happen before anyone was interested in identifying and fixing the problem.

A shameful situation indeed when it endangered the lives of our veterans.