VA officials: 3 veterans may have died from delayed care in Augusta

AUGUSTA, GA (WFXG) - Delayed care at the Augusta Veterans Affairs Medical Center may have led to the deaths of three veterans, according to Augusta VAMC Public Affairs Officer Pete Scovill.

Scovill says the veterans, who were patients at the Augusta VAMC, may still be alive if they had received timely cancer treatment.

The extremely costly delay in care may be linked to the high volume of patients.

An October 2012 internal memo obtained by Fox54 shows there were 4,503 unresolved consults for gastrointestinal endoscopies at the Augusta VAMC. The memo says the delays led to five institutional disclosures.

"They went out there to fight for us, for our country and when they need medical care and whatever they should be able to be treated," said Annette Smoaks, her daughter receives treatment at the VAMC.

In a statement released to the press, Scovill said, "We share the sorrow and regret, all Veterans feel at the loss of the three Veterans…these brave service men fell victim to cancer that may have been avoided had they received specialized screenings during the early stages of the disease."

The hospital has also had several other issues.

While Rebecca Wiley was the director of Augusta's VA Medical Center from 2007 to 2010, the hospital had problems with properly sterilizing equipment, according to the office of the VA inspector general.

The Augusta VAMC lost its full accreditation from the Joint Commission in September 2010.

Scovill says they are making changes to ensure that other veterans won't die for lack of care.

"As far as I'm concerned when I come here my care is fine and everything is good but I wouldn't want that to happen to me," said Keena Avery, who has been treated at the VAMC since 2008.

"We have worked diligently to eliminate the roadblocks that delayed these all important screenings," Scovill, said.

According to an internal memo, since 2012 the VAMC has tripled the number of screening procedures they can conduct each day. The memo also states that they are now scheduling procedures based on need.

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