May 2, 2014 6:37 PM
Federal officials say three executives of the veterans hospital in Phoenix have been placed on administrative leave amid an investigation into allegations of corruption and unnecessary deaths at the facility.
The Phoenix facility has been under fire in recent weeks over allegations that up to 40 patients may have died because of delays in care and that the hospital kept a secret list of patients waiting for appointments to hide the treatment delays.
Earlier Thursday, before the announcement that she would be placed on leave, Phoenix VA Health Care System Director Sharon Helman and the hospital's chief of staff denied any knowledge of a secret list and said they had found no evidence of patient deaths due to delayed care.
The claims are the latest to come to light as VA hospitals around the country struggle to handle the huge volume of patients who need medical attention, including aging vets from World War II, Korea and Vietnam and a newer influx from wars over the last decade. In the past year, VA facilities in South Carolina, Florida, Georgia and Washington state have been linked to delays in patient care or poor oversight.
Dr. Samuel Foote, who had worked for the Phoenix VA for more than 20 years before retiring in December, brought the allegations to light and says supervisors ignored his complaints. He accused Arizona VA leaders of collecting bonuses for reducing patient wait times, but he said the purported successes resulted from data manipulation rather than improved service for veterans, and that up to 40 patients died while awaiting care.
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