Sen. Kirk outraged, speaks out against VA scandal - FOX 32 News Chicago

Sen. Kirk outraged, speaks out against VA scandal

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

The search is underway for a replacement for Veterans Secretary Eric Shinseki, following his resignation.

Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson is temporarily in charge and the White House is looking for a specialist in managing big systems.

Illinois Senator Mark Kirk agrees that major changes are needed, based in part on what he heard at the Hines VA Hospital yesterday.

“We're not going to stop until our veterans get the best quality care they deserve,” said Hines VA Hospital social worker Germaine Clarno.

Clarno heads the union that represents health professionals at the hospital. She met with Senator Mark Kirk Friday and helped the senator meet other VA employees who claimed there is a culture of corruption among the managers at Hines.

“I think a lot of our employees were losing hope that anyone was really listening to what was going on at Hines. That the culture of intimidation and harassment for anyone standing up for the quality of care is out of control,” added Clarno.

One doctor told Senator Kirk there were boxes of echo-cardiograms that had never been read, while some patients died. A hospital spokesperson disputed that.

However, the Senator said he's heard enough to suggest a major overhaul of VA healthcare is needed.

“We need a systemic change at the VA. We need a separate chain of command that cannot be messed with,” said Sen. Kirk.

Clarno added doctors have been afraid to speak up because VA managers would badmouth them, if they sought work elsewhere.

You speak up and you say, ‘hey, we need to do something different,’ and you're harassed to the extent that the physicians, their licensing is in jeopardy. They're threatened with that,” said Sen. Kirk.

It turns out that the scandal over long waiting times is nothing new. A task force set up eleven years ago by President George W. Bush found at least 236,000 veterans were on waiting lists of six months or more for first appointments and follow-ups.

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