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I-TEAM: What did investigators uncover at Charlie Norwood?

Published: Jul. 13, 2021 at 9:33 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - A new oversight report found new problems at the Charlie Norwood VA downtown. The Office of Inspector General just published a 30-page report that found a backlog of 4,000 critical patient records. The office was alerted by a whistleblower back in 2019 – that’s when the investigation began.

It found our local Department of Veterans Affairs medical center failed to complete required health record documentation. It also found a primary care provider the VA used was not reading and responding to alerts for patient files. Anything from medicine refills to reviewing lab results. The complaint was for 4,000 backlogged alerts but at one point the investigation found it at 14,000. So how did this happen?

It found the provider’s “poor documentation practices” had been going on for some time. The VA also lacked proper oversight to catch these failures because the position in charge of that was vacant for four years. The report states the Charlie Norwood VA also didn’t have its own policy to set time restraints for responding to these records. That’s a violation of Veterans Health Administration policy.

So what changed?

After multiple warnings, the VA stopped using that primary care provider. They hired a new chief of health information management to oversee records compliance. And the backlog of records were nearly cleared during a later inspection by investigators.

In a statement, the VA told the I-Team they now have monthly check-ins to make sure requirements are met. They also came up with their own internal policy with “Concrete timeframes” to respond to documentation.

They also stated the “Charlie Norwood VA will continue its structured monitoring to confirm the quality of care is delivered.”

It is important to note inspectors say the VA “Did not find adverse clinical outcomes (for any patients) as a result of the delinquent documentation.”

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