VA Hospital Whistleblower: I Was Punished for Telling Truth

Tuesday, 20 May 2014 06:10 PM

By Jason Devaney

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The ongoing VA hospital scandal is spreading across the nation, and one doctor in St. Louis says he is being bullied and was demoted for telling the truth about what was going on at his facility.

Dr. Jose Mathews told KMOX radio that he is paying the price for opening his mouth. Co-workers are giving him a hard time, and he was removed from his previous position as chief psychiatrist for the VA Medical Center in St. Louis.

"They're sometimes mocking," Matthews told the radio station. "There are sometimes people who make it a point to come into my office and laugh. Seriously, this is not a joke."

In a federal whistleblower lawsuit, Matthews said doctors at the VA hospital were only working a few hours a day and were seeing only about half of the mental health patients they could have been seeing.

He told Fox News last week that soldiers seeking treatment at the facility were committing suicide amid wait times of at least a month to see a doctor.

In official reports sent to Washington, the hospital said it was one of the most productive VA hospitals in the country.

"They all got bonuses — that's the sad part, because in reality we were not really doing a good job, but it shows up on paper as if we are," Mathews told Fox News.

After Matthews spoke up about what was going on, he told Fox News, he was moved to a basement office to work on pensions and compensation and was ordered to stay away from other doctors and patients at the hospital.

"I think they have some form of moral blindness or something. They're not able to see that this is not right, what they're doing is not right," Matthews said.

Several other VA hospitals across the nation are under scrutiny. With claims of secret waiting lists that left veterans waiting months to see a doctor, the scandal is moving from state to state as more employees come forward.

One report over the weekend linked 167 veterans' deaths to delays in treatment, for which a total of $36.4 million was paid to settle claims.

The scandal began at the VA hospital in Phoenix, where allegations of the secret waiting lists surfaced. Officials at the facility allegedly kept two waiting lists — a fake one, which it used for reporting purposes, and a real one, which remained hidden. Forty deaths have been linked to the delays there.

The VA's goal is to see every patient within 14 days of initial contact with the hospital, but wait times in Phoenix spanned months.

Secret waiting lists allegedly were also used in the Chicago VA hospital.

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