Senator Brian Schatz has asked the Department of Veterans Affairs to investigate allegations of misconduct within the Hawaii VA healthcare system, including accusations that administrators asked hospital staffers to delete computer data regarding patient wait times.
In a letter to the acting Inspector General of the nation's VA system, Schatz calls the allegations "serious" and asks for accountability should evidence of wrongdoing be discovered.
"I request that you investigate these allegations as part of your nationwide review of misconduct at VA hospitals," Sen. Schatz said in the letter. "We owe it to the 117,000 veterans living in Hawaii, many of whom are rural veterans on the neighbor islands who are already struggling to access routine care."
Schatz writes in the letter that a constituent told his office, through secondhand information from doctors and nurses, that the Chief Administrator of the Spark M. Matsunaga VA Medical Center in Honolulu "asked staff to wipe their computers clean regarding patient wait times."
In a recent audit, new veterans seeking initial appointments in Hawaii were found to have the longest wait time in the country, at 145 days.
The letter also claims that Schatz's office was told "that lower- and mid-level management personnel are being told to 'cook-the-books' regarding patients' appointments."
Another constituent alleged that an appointment was not entered into the VA's electronic system until three weeks after the appointment was requested so as to disguise the true wait time, according to the letter.
In an interview with Hawaii News Now on Friday morning, Schatz said that he is seeking an independent investigation into the VA in Hawaii to determine what is happening with the local administration.
"The level of trust right now is really low, and we're going to have to do some work to rebuild that trust," Sen. Schatz said be telephone. "This is one of my highest priorities because these people put their lives on the line and we owe it to them to deliver health care."