12 On Your Side: VA deaths lead to pending congressional hearing in Augusta

News 12 at 6 o'clock / November 27, 2013

AUGUSTA, GA (WRDW)

Congressman Barrow told News 12 the fact that no one person is being held responsible for those patients' deaths is one thing but he says he and members of the House Committee on Veteran Affairs including leaders of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations are going to get to all the people who are responsible.

"The folks that gave our country the best years of their lives deserve the best medical care possible," says Barrow.

He says that is not what happened at Augusta's Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center. "You hear complaints from time to time but it became obvious to us that there was a chronic problem that became very acute," says Barrow.

He is requesting a congressional field hearing and investigation into the problems at the Norwood facility. His inquiry comes after News 12 's investigation confirmed three patient deaths due to a lack of proper medical care.

We also obtained documentation that identified 4,503 patients on a waiting list for GI endoscopies and at least five reported adverse instances at the facility that could have resulted in serious harm or death according to a VA handbook.

"The families of folks who have been hurt as result of delay or substandard care have a right to be angry," says Barrow.

Last week we asked VA director Robert Hamilton who would be held responsible for the preventable deaths of those three veterans. "They are mutlifactorial, there is no one individual who is responsible in delays in this type of care," says Hamilton.

Barrow says it does not mean someone or numerous individuals should not be held accountable. "If everybody's responsible no one is responsible and that's unacceptable," says Barrow.

In 2008 during another investigation of the hospital, it uncovered abuse of authority and political favoritism after a previous director was accused of hiring a former congressional staff employee to a VA position.

Barrow says with that case as well as the current issues at Charlie Norwood, the director of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs will not rest until he gets to the bottom of what happened. "He's going to make this a top priority to have an investigation into what happened here and he's going to personally attend and participate in that," says Barrow.

Since News 12's first report, VA officials say they have reduced that list of 4,500 GI endoscopies down to about 450.

Meanwhile we're being told that it a formal field hearing will likely take place at Charlie Norwood VA and it could involve testimony from personnel, witnesses and possibly the families of those veterans that passed away.


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