Updated: 09/04/2014 5:17 PM
Created: 09/04/2014 5:12 PM WDIO.com
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Two former employees of the Minneapolis VA Medical Center allege they were pressured to falsify patient appointment dates and medical records to hide delays, a television station reported.
In a report that aired Wednesday night, the ex-employees told KARE-TV that in some cases, they were told to falsify medical records by writing that patients had declined follow-up treatments when, in reality, they say the veterans had never been contacted.
The former VA workers fear that patients' lives may be at risk because they say some cases involved suspected colon cancer.
"Some of them were getting missed altogether," said Heather Rossbach, one of the former VA workers.
Until recently, Rossbach was a medical support assistant and Letty Alonso was a supervisor in the Minneapolis VA's gastroenterology department.
"I feel like they need to be exposed for what's really going on," Alonso said.
The women contend they were fired after trying to alert top VA administrators about the problems, and have outlined their allegations in a complaint to the VA's Office of Inspector General.
Minneapolis VA Health Care System director Patrick Kelly told KARE he's not aware of any secret wait lists at the facility, and he does not believe such lists exist.
"None have been uncovered," Kelly said.
In August, government investigators reported they found no proof that delays in care caused any deaths at a Veterans Affairs hospital in Phoenix. But investigators say they found widespread problems that the Veterans Affairs Department is promising to fix.
Kelly said in a statement to The Associated Press on Thursday that the quality of care in the Minneapolis VA's gastrointestinal clinic is "excellent."
"Veterans should not deter from coming to the Minneapolis VA based on the allegations of former employees," Kelly's statement said.
Rossbach and Alonso said their gastroenterology department was in charge of scheduling colonoscopies to detect cancer and follow-up care if a doctor spotted problems.
"I caught one with bleeding 46 days with no action whatsoever," Alonso said.
To keep evidence of delays in Minneapolis out of VISTA, the VA's official electronic record tracking system, the women said a supervisor ordered them to keep a secret patient waiting list.
In their complaint to the VA's Office of Inspector General, the Minneapolis women said they also were ordered to falsify patient records - told to write down that veterans had refused treatment, when they had not even been contacted, KARE reported.
Kelly told the station that Alonso's allegations about wait times were "unfounded. Unsubstantiated."
KARE reports the independent Office of Special Counsel for the U.S. government is investigating both women's claims that they were fired for blowing the whistle. A spokesman told the AP Thursday the agency had no comment.
Information from: KARE-TV, http://www.kare11.com
(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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