The Veterans Affairs hospital in Phoenix, Arizona, has secretly kept around 1,500 sick veterans waiting for health care—and at least 40 of them died waiting, CNN reports. Former Phoenix VA doctor Sam Foote says managers there found a way around the rule that VA hospitals should see patients in 2 to 4 weeks: "They developed the secret waiting list." Hospital staff would take down information on veterans seeking appointments, he says, and move that data to a secret electronic list. Their names only reached the official list when a spot opened up for them—that way, Washington never knew about the horrid delays.
The system also ensured that hospital percentages stayed high and managers got bonuses, he tells KTVK. Top administrators "should face the same consequences the provider of a private practice would face for doing that," he says. "Prosecution." At the same time, he says Phoenix VA staff are "frustrated" and wish they could leave because "they know what they're doing is wrong." (Other high-level VA staff confirm Foote's allegations, CNN notes.) In Washington, the US House Veterans Affairs Committee is already investigating fatal delays in VA care, and now Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake are seeking a Senate investigation into the Phoenix VA, Fox News reports. But that's cold comfort to the family of Navy veteran Thomas Breen, who died of bladder cancer waiting for an appointment there. "At the end is when he suffered," says his daughter-in-law. "He screamed. He cried. ... He cried in the kitchen right here. 'Don't let me die.'"