Wednesday, April 25, 2018
News Roundup

Practices at VA face more criticism

WASHINGTON — The Department of Veterans Affairs has played down instances of poor medical care by describing them as a "harmless error," even in the face of its own employees' concerns, according to a federal watchdog agency.

In a letter to President Barack Obama and Congress on Monday, the Office of Special Counsel substantiated a long list of problems at VA medical centers, from high levels of Legionella bacteria at a clinic in Grand Junction, Colo., to a psychiatric patient who waited eight years for his first evaluation after being admitted to a mental health facility in Brockton, Mass.

The OSC, which investigates whistle-blower complaints and protects federal employees from retaliation, is reviewing more than 50 complaints from VA workers who alleged that inappropriate practices harmed patient safety or health. The watchdog agency said it has referred 29 of those cases to the VA for further investigation.

In its letter, it detailed 10 cases nationwide in which the VA and its Office of the Medical Inspector acknowledged treatment issues but refused to acknowledge their impact on veterans.

"These cases are part of a troubling pattern of deficient patient care at VA facilities nationwide, and the continued resistance by the VA, and (Office of the Medical Inspector) in most cases, to recognize and address the impact on the health and safety of veterans," U.S. Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner wrote.

Lerner said the harmless-error defense has "prevented the VA from acknowledging the severity of systemic problems and from taking the necessary steps to provide quality care to veterans." She added that "veterans' health and safety has been unnecessarily put at risk" because of the issue.

The letter follows recent revelations about widespread falsification of scheduling records to hide treatment delays at VA medical centers across the country.

Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson, who took over after Eric Shinseki resigned last month, said he was "deeply disappointed" by the findings.

Comments
A religious group has settled in a big pink house in Clearwater. Neighbors aren’t happy.

A religious group has settled in a big pink house in Clearwater. Neighbors aren’t happy.

CLEARWATER — The first thing John Trevena noticed about his new neighbors was the color of their house: Pepto-Bismol pink.It didn’t worry Trevena, a criminal defense lawyer who moved into the three-bedroom rental home next door in 2015."I knew it was...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Pasco corporal who took down student on video now cleared (w/video)

Pasco corporal who took down student on video now cleared (w/video)

LAND O’LAKES — Kayla Peña filled up her water bottle then returned to her lunch table at Sunlake High School when she heard a commotion in the cafeteria on Tuesday afternoon.A female student was riled up, walking back and forth, Peña said, screaming ...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Updated: 1 hour ago

Updated: 1 hour ago
Hillsborough says its teachers are well-paid; the teachers say it’s not true. Who’s right?

Hillsborough says its teachers are well-paid; the teachers say it’s not true. Who’s right?

TAMPA — Seeking to show that Hillsborough County school officials waste money that could go to teacher raises, union director Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins talked about highly paid administrators. She talked about legal fees paid to outside firms when in-...
Updated: 1 hour ago
For senior week, Lakewood High School must mourn a senior

For senior week, Lakewood High School must mourn a senior

ST. PETERSBURG — Lakewood High School principal Erin Savage has never planned a candlelight vigil. But this week, Savage must learn how to do so as her school mourns the tragic death of one of its graduating seniors.Bryson Welton-Williams, 18, died T...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Updated: 2 hours ago
Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

A St. Petersburg waste-to-energy plant now under construction has been billed for years as an environmentally friendly money saver. Now it looks more like a boondoggle, with the cost and mission changing on the fly. It’s yet another example of a city...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Senator wants to put a tighter leash on airline rules for service animals

Senator wants to put a tighter leash on airline rules for service animals

WASHINGTON — Congress will consider tightening the rules on service animals allowed to accompany passengers on airliners under legislation introduced this week.Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., has introduced an airline bill that would align the definition ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Rays bring Jonny Venters back to majors

Rays bring Jonny Venters back to majors

UPDATE, 5:34: Venters, understandably, was humbled and happy to make it back. "It's hard to put into words how I'm feeling," he said. "It's been an emotional day."Venters was in uniform in the Durham clubhouse during rain delay when he got called in ...
Updated: 3 hours ago