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Medical care delayed for Las Vegas valley veteran with deadly lung cancer

Posted at 6:00 PM, May 23, 2017

Delays in diagnosis and patient care at the VA Southern Nevada are once again making headlines. 

Contact 13 has a new report about multiple failures in the case of a local veteran.

Suffering from a condition where every day counts, the veteran had to wait six months for a proper evaluation. 

The delay caused a domino effect in the diagnosis and treatment of the disease that ended his life.

In need of urgent surgery, the veteran fell victim to bureaucracy. 

This newly released report from the VA Inspector General says the veteran also wasn't notified of test results in a timely fashion -- partly due to failed follow-up on a non-VA doctor's recommendation for a lung biopsy. 

There were delays in getting authorization for non-VA medical care, difficulty getting chemotherapy medications and delayed treatment of what turned out to be lung cancer -- which kills more Americans than any other form.

It all happened in 2014 -- a scandal-plagued year for the VA when some 40 veterans in Phoenix died while on waiting lists for medical care. 

Here in Las Vegas, Contact 13 exposed long wait times and canceled appointments compromising care for Southern Nevada veterans. 

And that same year, we reported an eerily similar case to the one detailed in the OIG's report -- the story of Gene Broadwell, a Coast Guard veteran who died of lung cancer.

"This man who'd never been sick in his life was treated like some piece of garbage thrown out by the VA," said Broadwell's widow, Delores. 

The last year of Gene Broadwell's life was peppered with appointment delays his wife believes were a death sentence.

"They could have found it maybe earlier and did the chemo and the radiation. He'd still be sitting here talking to us."

The VA acknowledged they could have done better to serve the man who served his country.

"Is it fair to say you don't want to see another Broadwell case?" Darcy Spears asked then-VA Chief of Medicine Dr. Milan Parekh

"Absolutely," Dr. Parekh answered. "I think that's a very fair statement."

But two years later, as the new report details, it happened again.

The VA says the deficiencies identified in the report have been resolved, partly due to nationally-mandated changes to the VA's Choice program, which allows veterans to receive care from non-VA doctors. 

There are about 240,000 veterans living in the Las Vegas area.

VASNHS OFFICIAL RESPONSE

Since the 2014 timeframe in which this incident occurred, the Veterans Health Administration and VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System have implemented numerous changes and resolved all the deficiencies identified in the report to the OIG’s satisfaction. Highlights include:

- Establishment of a better process for communicating test results to patients within 14 days (Current internal record reviews show 100 percent compliance).

- Implementation of the Veterans Choice Program nationwide in 2015 to streamline processes to provide authorizations for care in the community, track results and follow-up on outside provider recommendations (No reported significant delays in care that impacted outcomes of care).

- Processing more than 95 percent of STAT consults (a consult that clinical care is required within 24-48 hours) on time and processing a majority of all other consults within seven days.

- Improved education and procedures for sending patients seen in the Emergency Department to community facilities and intensive case management of their outside care.

- Realignment of Non VA Care and Choice program and expansion of staff to manage consults actions and decisions.

- Investigation and resolution of medication management issues and barriers. Currently, VASNHS completes 97.7 percent of non-formulary consults within 96 hours.

We are confident these actions – along with expanded emergency care and access to same-day services at all primary care facilities for Veterans with urgent needs – will prevent the recurrence of a similar issue in the future.