The VA is still in trouble. Is that a surprise to anyone? As the NY Times reports, the number of veterans on waiting lists of one month or more is now 50 percent higher than it was during the height of last year’s problems. Even better, the department is also facing a nearly $3 billion budget shortfall. So, what’s the plan? Well, “the agency is considering furloughs, hiring freezes and other significant moves to reduce the gap”.
Wasn’t the government supposed to fix this? Yes.
Since the waiting-list scandal broke last year, the department has broadly expanded access to care. Its doctors and nurses have handled 2.7 million more appointments than in any previous year, while authorizing 900,000 additional patients to see outside physicians. In all, agency officials say, they have increased capacity by more than seven million patient visits per year — double what they originally thought they needed to fix shortcomings.
But what was not foreseen, department leaders say, was just how much physician workloads and demand from veterans would continue to soar — by one-fifth, in fact, at some major veterans hospitals over just the past year.
So, the way to fix this was overworking the doctors and nurses more and more. If you know the doctor lingo at all then here is a number to chew on. The docs had to increase their RVUs by about 20%. That’s a lot. The bottom line is that the number of new patients seeking treatment has increased more and more and these types of patient have lots of problems. When they finally get in to see the doctor they “have a lot of catching up to do” (Animal House reference). With less and less funding you have then have a recipe for disaster.
How about the doctors, who work at the VA, speaking up? You rarely see it because they are afraid:
Last year’s waiting-list crisis led to complaints that the department was divided by an acrimonious and retaliatory culture, where whistle-blowers were punished and constructive criticism was stifled.
In summary, we have another VA tsunami coming. Pity the patients who are going to the VA. Pity the nurses who have to slave over them. And, lastly, pity the doctors working there or who are thinking about working there. These poor bastards are going to drown.