Over the past six years, almost 372 Veterans Administration (VA) employees were reprimanded for their drug or alcohol related problems at the VA’s 160 medical centers and 1,000 clinics around the country.
There were also 11,000 incidents of drugs being “lost” or outright stolen from VA hospitals. However, out of all cases of loss and theft, only 3% of the employees involved were ever disciplined.
The VA administration has presently declined to comment on these startlingly low disciplinary rates, citing that there are “cases still under investigation,” and “employee personal information” protections in place.
The Associated Press reported that government information shows a major increase in the theft of opioid drugs since the year 2009.
According to the report, drug loss and theft incidents skyrocketed from 272 in 2009 to 2,926 in 2015.
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The VA reported in its own data that 2,405 cases of drug loss or theft occurred from January 2014 to March 2016 and that almost 92 percent of these losses happened in transit, usually while mailing or by employees taking the drugs before mailing. 1.5 percent were lost by outright employee theft and 1.2 % were lost in “external theft,” with an additional 5.9 percent in unknown thefts.
One of the major problems with the VA is in its tracking system when it comes to drugs. Congressional auditors found at least four hospitals not even conducting monthly inspections of their drug inventory.
According to an AP interview with Michael Valentino, a chief consultant at VA’s Pharmacy Benefits Management Services: “We would like there to be no drug diversion anywhere at any time. No matter how robust our systems are, people will be determined to find ways to get around them. It’s a lesson we can learn to tighten things up if possible.”
Dan Caldwell, policy director for the conservative Concerned Veterans of America had this to say:
“Until VA employees understand that there will be real consequences for misconduct, they’re completely disincentivized from following the rules. We believe that the VA should ramp up drug testing to help weed out those who are abusing the system.”
Recent audits also discovered little VA compliance with federal drug testing.
New VA secretary David Shulkin listed employee accountability as a top priority, and stated he’d work with Congress to pass legislation so that “bad employees are leaving the system.”
The VA does have great drug loss protection on paper, like 72-hour inventory checks and double lock and key access to drugs, but the policies appear not to be followed.
Keith Berge, a Mayo Clinic anesthesiologist who chairs its Medication Diversion Prevention group, said, “It is not good enough to merely have effective policies and procedures on the books; they must actually be rigorously followed.”
H/T: AP News
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