Florida Agency for Health Care Administration Sec. Liz Dudek accused the federal Department of Veterans Affairs of a “lack of transparency” today after she said two AHCA inspectors were denied access to records at the VA Medical Center in Riviera Beach.
Responding to reports of veteran deaths and injuries caused by delays in diagnostic testing in the VA region that includes Florida, Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday asked AHCA to inspect VA hospitals in the state. Dudek said AHCA sent two surveyors to the the hospital in Riviera Beach to conduct an onsite review.
“This morning, two surveyors went to the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center at 10:15 a.m. and were escorted out around 11:15 after being declined the opportunity to review any records at that time,” a statement from Dudek said. “They were told an official response would be provided from the VA’s national office in Washington D.C.”
VA spokeswoman Mary Goodman said the agency will cooperate with AHCA, but could not do so today.
“VA is working with Governor Scott’s office to address his concerns. This was an unannounced inspection. Due to federal guidelines and the Privacy Act considerations, we cannot disclose patient information,” Goodman said.
The Riviera Beach visit was the only one AHCA attempted today.
“All of our inspections are unannounced so I cannot say whether there will be any other visits,” AHCA spokeswoman Shelisha Coleman said.
CNN reported last year that delays in simple gastrointestinal procedures, such as a colonoscopy or endoscopy, were causing veterans to die from cancer that was detected too late. Last week, The Tampa Tribune reported that five of those deaths occurred between 2009 and 2011 in the VA region that includes Florida, southern Georgia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
Scott and Sen. Bill Nelson have criticized VA officials for not providing more specific information on where the deaths occurred. Sen. Marco Rubio introduced legislation in February making it easier for the VA secretary to fire any senior officials who are deemed responsible.
Dudek added her voice to the criticism today.
“Florida’s veterans who have so bravely fought to defend and protect our nation deserve quality health care, and I am disappointed in the federal government’s lack of transparency to this point. We look forward to hearing back from the VA very soon so we can continue the dialogue about how the Agency can review their processes so any shortcomings can be promptly identified and addressed,” Dudek said.