Hospitals operated by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs have been defying federal law and hiring health care providers with revoked or suspended licenses for at least 15 years, USA Today reports.
“The dumping ground for all these folks is the VA,” Colorado Republican Rep. Mike Coffman said in demanding this week that VA Secretary David Shulkin begin a national review to determine whether other employees with malpractice complaints or settlements are working at hospitals.
The VA does not require medical workers to have malpractice insurance — and the agency pays claims with taxpayer dollars.
According to the report, the VA issued national guidelines in 2002 allowing local hospitals to hire healthcare workers after “prior consideration of all relevant facts surrounding” any revocations and as long as they still had a license in one state.
But a federal law passed in 1999 barred the VA from employing workers whose license has been revoked by any state.
Still, USA Today found that neurosurgeon John Henry Schneider was hired in April by the VA in Iowa City, Iowa.
He disclosed in his application that he had numerous malpractice claims and settlements and that Wyoming had revoked his license after a patient death.
Schneider, however, still had a license in Montana.
But on Nov. 29, the VA sought to fire Schneider after inquiries by USA Today. He resigned instead.
The agency said that Iowa City VA hospital officials had received “incorrect guidance” in hiring Schneider, conceding to USA Today this week that the national policy had allowed them to bring him aboard.
Shulkin said he had ordered the rewriting of agency guidelines and had launched a nationwide review to identify and fire health care workers with revoked licenses.
“It’s very clear to me that our job is to have the best quality doctors that we can provide to take care of veterans,” he said. “That going to be our policy.”
Shulkin added that providers with other sanctions against their licenses short of revocation — suspensions or reprimands, for instance — also will be reviewed.
Besides Coffman, other members of Congress have demanded that Shulkin take action after USA Today’s report.
Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that it was “unacceptable that it was only as a result of USA Today’s report that the VA determined that hiring this neurosurgeon [Schneider] was illegal.”
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