Waiting list at Wichita hospital endangered veterans

The director of the veterans hospital in Wichita has informed two U.S. senators that the hospital kept a secret waiting list of patients that was found to have endangered veterans.

In addition, 96 veterans in the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Heartland Network area had waited more than 90 days for appointments, including 12 veterans in Kansas City, nine in Wichita and eight in eastern Kansas (Topeka and Leavenworth).

The disclosures, sent by fax late Friday to Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran, contained few details and referred the senators to a Wichita-based public affairs spokesman. The spokesman is on vacation, and his replacement said she was not immediately prepared to field questions.

Roberts said his No. 1 priority is to find out how many veterans were endangered and exactly what has been done to correct the problem. He said he has learned that the list that placed veterans at risk involved patients who had been discharged from the hospital and were supposed to receive ongoing primary care while recovering at home.

Overall, the inspector general’s office found 10 secret lists in the Heartland Network, which includes Kansas and Missouri, and parts of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and Arkansas.

Of those 10 lists, two were found to have actually placed veterans at risk, including the one in Wichita, according to the fax from Francisco Vazquez, director of the Dole VA Medical Center.

In the cases where the secret lists didn’t put patients at risk, staffers were educated about “more appropriate techniques.” Wichita “terminated” the list and corrected gaps in patient access, the fax said.

Among the veterans waiting more than 90 days for appointments with primary care doctors, the fax said they included 26 in St. Louis, 19 in Columbia and 14 in Poplar Bluff, Mo.

The national scandal over VA scheduling began at the Phoenix veterans hospital and has spread to other facilities across the country.