12 OYS: VA responds to deaths; vet speaks out about cancer screen delays

News 12 at 6 o'clock/ November 21, 2013

AUGUSTA, GA (WRDW)

We asked disabled veteran Richard Johnson what he thinks of the VA. "I don't like it because of the things that have happened to me," says Johnson.

He also says he is not surprised that three veterans died at Charlie Norwood VA Hospital because of cancer screening delays. He says he has experienced long wait times too.

"A lot of my consults that have been sent I have waited, and waited, and waited, and waited," says Johnson. He says he went to University Hospital where doctors discovered a problem. "They did a colonoscopy and this time they found polyps and one was pre-cancer," says Johnson.

On Thursday afternoon News 12 spoke with VA director Robert Hamilton. He says the backlog of 4,503 GI screenings have been resolved but admits the VA dropped the ball. "I would say as we look back there were opportunities to try and get those folks in earlier for detection of any type of GI cancer," says Hamilton.

So who is being held responsible for the preventable deaths of those three veterans? "There are multifactorial. There is no one individual who is responsible in delays in this type of care," says Hamilton.

The VA says its also kept open communication with the vets who died. "We're very, very, open with our patients and there families to let them know that the harm that they incurred was our responsibility," says Hamilton.

As for Johnson, he says going to the VA is just not an option anymore. "I'm afraid that if I'm admitted and come in here I'm not coming out. Not the way you want to come out," says Johnson.

The VA says it is now just about current on all medical screenings including those GI's. It says it has made some administrative changes including adding more personnel.


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