Phoenix VA whistleblower Kuauhtemoc Rodriguez has filed a new inspector general complaint alleging that some patients are waiting hundreds of days for appointments, while doctors are simultaneously making their schedules as unavailable as possible.
Rodriguez, who works as chief of specialty care clinics/scheduling operations at the Phoenix VA, filed the OIG complaint last Thursday and also sent an email to VA Secretary David Shulkin this Wednesday, stating that even though he disclosed the problems back in April 2016, virtually nothing has since been done to solve the problems of physicians blocking off times so that no appointments can be booked.
“Unfortunately the Phoenix VA executive leaders continue to allow this practice and it is Veterans who are paying the price in a lag in them receiving timely care,” Rodriguez said in the email to Shulkin.
Rodriguez told The Daily Caller News Foundation that 267 veterans are currently waiting more than 150 days for mental health care on electronic wait lists, due to providers blocking off large amounts of time on their schedules.
Rodriguez added that not only have hospital administrators done nothing to solve the problem, but they’ve actively retaliated against him for his disclosures.
“Dr. Shulkin, instead of the Phoenix VA or the VA, in general, creating processes to fix these issues the executives assigned to Phoenix have engaged in retaliation, discrimination, hostilities, defamation of character, and have ignored physical threats I’ve endured,” Rodriguez stated. “Instead of the Phoenix VA trying to solve the problems it itself has created it chooses to attack me and punish me. Every Phoenix VA Director to include Associate Directors, and Chiefs of my department have come after me, and continue to try and fire me with false allegations, not because I’ve truly done something wrong, but because I continue to fight for the medical rights of my fellow Veterans.”
The initial April 2016 disclosure described physicians blocking off between three to five hours of time every single day, which prevented patients from receiving mental health care.
At the American Legion’s 99th national convention, Shulkin said during a speech Wednesday that the wait time crisis at the Phoenix VA, which erupted in 2014, must never happen again, but according to Rodriguez, the crisis is still ongoing.
However, the Phoenix VA stated in response to queries that scheduling appointments at the facility is a complex process, of which the whistleblower may be unaware.
“There is a lot going on that the whistleblower may not be aware of in this process as scheduling protocols are quite complex, so this isn’t something we can give a statement on and explain the full scope of the process,” Paul Coupaud, public affairs officer at the Phoenix VA, told TheDCNF. “The Phoenix VA is a transparent health care system and would be happy to accommodate an interview here to discuss the scheduling protocols for our psychotherapy patients. A face-to-face would provide greater opportunity to address the complexity of this process.”
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