Patrick Howley of the Daily Caller reports that Department of Veterans Affairs employees destroyed medical files in a “systematic attempt to eliminate backlogged veteran medical exam requests.” Oliver Mitchell, a former patient services assistant in the VA Greater Los Angeles Medical Center said that the center got about 3,000 requests a month for exams but only had the resources to do 800. Because waiting lists counted against a hospital’s efficiency report, officials began discussing how to make their waiting list look better by destroying records.
In Britain’s National Health Service, where the government set surgical waiting list targets of 18 months, hospitals have been massaging waiting list data for years. In 2001, the National Audit Office reported on some of the techniques used. These included deleting the records of patients who had hit the 18 month limit, altering patient records to show false admission dates, not adding outpatients to the list, unofficially adding a waiting list to get on the official waiting list, offering surgery only on dates when it was known that patients would be on vacation, and offering non-existent surgery dates at very short notice knowing that a patient would refuse.
The 2001 study found that an estimated 6,000 patients were affected. The scandal came to light only as a result of patient complaints because many people were denied access to needed care.
None of the auditors’ suggestions for better performance suggested increasing surgical capacity or letting prices equilibrate supply and demand. Instead, the auditors suggested that “The Department of Health should seek assurances from the Chief Executive of each NHS trust that there have been no inappropriate adjustments to waiting lists.”