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Whistleblower cites doctor shortage as reason for VA delays

Over the past several weeks, we have been writing about the scandal currently rocking the Department of Veterans Affairs. It turns out that a physician whistleblower voiced concerns about a shortage of doctors within the VA healthcare system long before the scandal broke.

According to the New York Times, a primary care physician employed within the VA healthcare system filed a whistleblower complaint before leaving her post. She both filed the complaint and left the VA system after discovering that she and other physicians were expected to work unreasonably long days due to massive client loads that grew and grew as physicians left the system and were never replaced.

When veterans suffering from serious illness, severe injury and mental challenges like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are not given access to enough doctors, wait lists grow. It is of little surprise then that an overburdened system suffering from a physician shortage would eventually birth a scandal centered on delays in patient care.

When the VA investigated the physician's whistleblower claim, it confirmed that the facility in which she worked was indeed being affected by a physician shortage. The VA also concluded that veterans had complained about care-related delays as a result of the shortage.

It seems that the tragic VA scandal could have been largely avoided had the department paid much more attention to the realities of supply and demand. When the nation's veterans are seeking care and an inadequate number of physicians is employed, the demand cannot be properly met. It is unquestionably frustrating that a lesson learned in high school economics has not yet been embraced by one of the nation's most important agencies.

Source: New York Times, "Doctor Shortage Is Cited in Delays at V.A. Hospitals," Richard A. Oppel Jr. and Abby Goodnough, May 29, 2014

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