The Veterans Health Administration has found a new way to endanger the heroes entrusted to its care.
A recent investigation by USA Today revealed that, for at least 15 years, Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities have hired healthcare professionals with revoked medical licenses — a practice that directly violates federal law. Last year, for instance, Iowa City, Iowa's VA hospital hired John Henry Schneider, a neurosurgeon who lost his license in Wyoming after bungling a surgery that led to the death of a patient. Schneider didn't hide this glaring red flag from VA administrators — he dutifully disclosed it in his job application. The VA hospital hired him anyway.
Schneider seriously harmed patients during his tenure at the VA. He conducted no fewer than four brain surgeries in just four weeks on one patient. The patient died three weeks later.
Schneider also performed three spinal surgeries on a different veteran. The doctor's work left the patient with a wound that hadn't healed a full month after the surgery.
VA Secretary David Shulkin was quick to deflect scrutiny from administrators' terrible judgment. Instead, he cast blame on a lack of regulatory clarity stemming from the large number of rules governing the agency. As he put it, "I don't know how any organization or any human being could appropriately understand and follow 66,000 policies."
It shouldn't take a federal law for hospital administrators to realize that hiring doctors who have lost their medical licenses for repeated malpractice isn't such a great idea.
The VA's scandalous hiring practices, in addition to lengthy treatment delays, understaffed suicide hotlines, and administrative corruption, shows that when the government is in charge of distributing healthcare resources, standards of care invariably plummet and patients suffer. That some lawmakers are advocating for a national single-payer healthcare system to condemn all Americans to such atrocious care is appalling.
Lawmakers ought to free our veterans from this ineptitude rather than foist government-run healthcare on the American people.
Sally Pipes (@sallypipes) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. She is president, CEO, and Thomas W. Smith Fellow in Health Care Policy at the Pacific Research Institute. Her next book, "The False Promise of Single-Payer Health Care" (Encounter), will be published this spring.
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