A Pattern of Problems at a Hospital for Veterans

WASHINGTON — In an unusually strong letter sent to the White House on Monday, the office that handles complaints from federal whistle-blowers says it has found a pattern of problems at a Department of Veterans Affairs medical center in Jackson, Miss., that raises serious questions about the hospital’s management practices.

The problems over the last six years include poor sterilization procedures, chronic understaffing of the primary care unit and missed diagnoses by the radiology department.

Though some of the problems seem to have been addressed, the large number of whistle-blower complaints from one hospital — five in this case, from separate people in different departments — raise a “troubling pattern of disclosure,” the letter from the Office of Special Counsel said.

“Collectively, these disclosures raise questions about the ability of this facility to care for the veterans it services,” wrote Carolyn N. Lerner, the special counsel.

Some of the most serious problems are raised by a retired doctor who worked at the medical center for 30 years. He accuses the hospital of failing to notify patients whose X-rays and CT scans may not have been properly read by a radiologist.

That radiologist, who has left the hospital, was accused by colleagues in a lawsuit of missing diagnoses because he read images too fast or not at all.

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