Sen. Mark Kirk held a meeting on Friday with several staffers from the Hines Veterans Affairs Hospital in Maywood, who he said told him disturbing stories.
“Boxes and boxes of electrocardiograms being not read,” Kirk said. “And when the physician went back to the box, they found that several of the veterans had already died!”
Kirk said employees told him disturbing stories during their meeting, including some of “virtual clinics,” where the hospital claimed treatment on patients who never received any actual medical care.
The meeting came on the same day Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned amid a scandal involving treatment delays for veterans across the country.
Kirk said staffers told him stories of “virtual clinics”, where the hospital claimed treatment on patients who never received any actual medical care.
“The culture of intimidation, and harassment for individuals to stand up and speak for quality care is out of control,” said union president Germaine Clarno. “It’s a really serious culture of fear.”
A Hines spokesman denied the report of unread heart scans.
“We do not have any current delays in reading echocardiograms,” spokesman Charity Hardison said in a statement. “The claim of a delay was made previously and was inspected by the Office of Inspector General.”
She included a section of the Inspector General’s report, which indicated that the average read time on a selected group of cases was 8.3 days.
“The Director and all employees at Hines VA Hospital remain committed to leading this organization and providing the best care our veterans have earned, and deserve,” the statement continued.
Shinseki apologized to veterans Friday for "indefensible and unacceptable" treatment delays and said he is removing the senior leadership at the Phoenix VA facility at the epicenter of the scandal.
"I cannot explain the lack of integrity among some of the leaders of our health care facilities," he said at a meeting of the National Coalition of Homeless Veterans in Washington, D.C. "This is something I rarely encountered during 38 years in uniform. And so I will not defend it, because it is indefensible, but I can take responsibility for it and I do."
Outside the Jesse Brown VA Hospital on Chicago’s west side Friday, several veterans expressed support for Shinseki, and complimented the level of care they received, even as they acknowledged delays.
“Somebody’s got to take the fall,” said Korean veteran Allen Jackson. “That’s all he is doing, is taking the fall!”
“He’s a scapegoat,” agreed Vietnam veteran Gregory Jointer. “He’s the fall guy!”