Tags: VA hospital | Wisconsin | overdose deaths | Ron Johnson | Tammy Baldwin

Lawmakers Outraged over Wisconsin VA 'Candy Land' Hospital

By    |   Thursday, 15 Jan 2015 03:17 PM

Wisconsin Republican and Democrat lawmakers alike are demanding an investigation of practices at a Veterans Affairs hospital amid allegations that include over-medication, preventable overdose deaths, and retaliation against whistleblowers.

Sen. Ron Johnson and Rep. Sean Duffy, both Republicans, and Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Rep. Ron Kind, Democrats, say they want answers in the wake of a story published  by the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) detailing problems at the VA medical center  in Tomah, Wisconsin, located about 165 miles northwest of Milwaukee.

According to CIR, patients had nicknamed the Tomah facility "Candy Land" due to the high number of prescriptions for medication there.

In the wake of the story, a VA spokesman said the department is reviewing allegations about problems at the facility. CIR reported Thursday that Dr. David Houlihan, a psychiatrist who served as the Tomah VA Medical Center's chief of staff, had been "temporarily reassigned" to a Veterans Affairs office while an internal investigation is conducted.

In a story published by the Chicago Tribune, CIR reported that the number of opiates prescribed at Tomah had skyrocketed between 2004 and 2012, even as the number of veterans seeking care at the hospital declined. The group has also provided details of the death in August of a 35-year-old Marine Corps veteran who overdosed while in the hospital's inpatient psychiatric ward.

Johnson, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, joined Duffy in sending a letter to the VA's deputy inspector general declaring that "we are deeply troubled by reports" that veterans "continue to receive questionable care" at the Tomah VA facility.

"It is disturbing to hear veterans and individuals working at the Tomah VAMC [Veterans Affairs Medical Center] describe the medical center as 'Candy Land' due to the amount of narcotic painkillers being prescribed," Johnson and Duffy wrote.

Baldwin and Kind on Monday asked Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald to investigate the allegations.

According to the CIR report, patients were so "doped up" that they frequently fell asleep and drooled during appointments. Medical staff said that anyone who objected would likely be punished, CIR said.

Kind said the allegations "are extremely serious and require immediate action."   

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Wisconsin Republican and Democrat lawmakers alike are demanding an investigation of practices at a Veterans Affairs hospital amid allegations that include over-medication, preventable overdose deaths, and retaliation against whistleblowers.
VA hospital, Wisconsin, overdose deaths, Ron Johnson, Tammy Baldwin
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2015-17-15
Thursday, 15 Jan 2015 03:17 PM
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