If you are or have been a patient at the Cincinnati Veterans Affairs Medical Center, you might want to follow what is going on in Washington.
U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) is urging the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Inspector General to undertake a swift investigation into what he says are troubling reports of substandard care and mismanagement at the Cincinnati Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
In a letter to Deputy Inspector General Linda A. Halliday, Portman demanded that the VA Office of Inspector General address these reports and conduct an investigation as quickly as possible.
“I write to call your attention to disturbing reports about the Cincinnati Veterans Affairs Medical Center, which provides medical care to over 40,000 area veterans,” Portman said in his correspondence to Halliday. “Whistleblowers, both current and former hospital employees, have alleged that the hospital has ‘engaged in a pattern of cost cutting that forced out experienced surgeons, reduced access to care and put patients in harm’s way’—including reductions in surgeries, such as spine and orthopedic surgeries for artificial limbs, staffing cuts, and failure to provide doctors with sterile surgical instruments.”
Portman went on to say there are also allegations of misconduct by Department officials in charge of the Cincinnati facility. In particular, press reports suggest that the hospital’s Acting Chief of Staff, Dr. Barbara Temeck, was receiving two salaries at the same time—one for her work as Acting Chief of Staff and the other as a thoracic surgeon, despite whistleblowers’ reports that Dr. Temeck only serves as an “assistant” in the operating room and never as the operating surgeon. More troubling, it has been reported that Dr. Temeck did not have a valid license to prescribe controlled substances (including hydrocone and a generic form of Valium) to the wife of the Department’s Regional Director, Jack Hetrick, who oversaw the Cincinnati hospital.
The Daily Times asked First Ward City Councilman Kevin W. Johnson about the care he has received at the Cincinnati VA facility.
“Not once have I heard anything negative said,” Johnson said. “Not once.”
Johnson is not unfamiliar with the facility.
“I’ve been going to the Cincinnati VA since late 2002,” Johnson said. “That’s the best VA facility I have ever gone to and I’ve gone to a lot.”
Johnson said it is possible that, with the size of the facility, there could be an occasional problem, and that perhaps a lapse in moral judgment could occur, but he said he does not believe it affects the entire institution.
“I think that’s an unfair charge that paints everyone there with the same brush,” Johnson said. “I get incredible care there. When talking to other veterans I always recommend if they can to be seen at Cincinnati.”
“These allegations are deeply disturbing,” Portman wrote. “Those who have served their country in uniform are entitled to the best possible medical care, and the public deserves to have confidence in the good judgment and professional integrity of those in charge of that care.”
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.