Don't Lose Focus on Problems at CAVHCS
The motto of bureaucrats prepared to thwart reform and preserve the status quo, it has been wryly observed, is "This, too, shall pass." The strategy is to simply wait out reform efforts in the confidence that that they will fade away as inertia prevails and attention is turned elsewhere.
That must not be allowed to happen in the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System. In a pointed speech on the House floor last week, U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, R-Montgomery, noted Washington's "short attention span" on some issues. The VA system, and in particular the problem-plagued CAVHCS, can't be one of them.
The CAVHCS facilities in Montgomery and Tuskegee recently were identified as worst and second worst in the country for extended delays in patient appointment completions. A workload report from the end of April found that CAVHCS had more than 6,500 consults still pending after more than 90 days. That is indefensible.
Advertiser readers are painfully familiar with the dismal performance at CAVHCS, a list of horror stories that includes manipulation of scheduling documents, misleading statements and even outright lies from top managers, hundreds of lost or never-read X-rays, falsification of records and shocking conduct by individual employees who were not even disciplined, let alone dismissed.
Some progress has been made and should be acknowledged, but as Roby said in her remarks, it is nowhere near enough and the follow-up that has occurred is insufficient. "Maybe that's because we are depending on a broken bureaucracy to fix itself," she said. "Maybe it's because we have been asking for VA leaders to intervene at this troubled system, rather than requiring them to. Maybe it's time to change that."
It is time, which is why we support Roby's proposal for legislation that would require national VA leadership to intervene and take over systems that are chronically failing to serve veterans. CAVHCS would certainly qualify.
She further proposes additional tools and resources to allow such takeovers to swiftly reform these failing systems and, perhaps most importantly, to hold the secretary of Veterans Affairs "squarely accountable" for seeing that such systems get the necessary attention.
There is no excusing the ongoing problems at CAVHCS, nor can there be any tailing off of efforts to address them. The veterans who served our country and were promised health care deserve to have it delivered promptly and competently.
If properly crafted, the legislation Roby is proposing would help bring that about. The debate also will help keep attention focused on these critical issues. Washington does tend to have a short attention span, but it must not let that undermine the reform of the VA.
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