Alleged Irregularities at the Veterans Administration Medical Center, Manhattan, New York

HRD-81-70: Published: Apr 16, 1981. Publicly Released: Apr 16, 1981.

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GAO was requested to review the Veterans Administration's (VA) investigation of alleged irregularities involving the surgical service at the Manhattan VA Medical Center. The review focused on the adequacy of the investigations conducted by the VA Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and whether the Manhattan VA Medical Center has corrected the problems identified by OIG. The allegations included charges that: (1) surgical, therapeutic, or diagnostic procedures were being performed without informed patient consent; and (2) surgical procedures were being performed on weekends by medical school residents without an attending physician present, which resulted in amputations, loss of life, and lack of documentation of the events.

GAO believes that the OIG investigation was adequate, and the center has taken steps to correct the problems identified. The review of the 30 surgical procedures performed in May 1980 showed that: (1) no correct forms were altered, and written consents were obtained in every instance by resident physicians who were members of either the operating team or the same surgical service or clinical unit as the operating team; (2) the frequency of progress notes written by attending physicians met accepted hospital standards; (3) the medical records indicated that supervision of surgical residents in the operating room met, and sometimes exceeded, the standards of the Manhattan VA Medical Center. In addition, the appropriate attending and consulting physicians were present in the hospital when surgery was performed.

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