A secret waiting list at the Phoenix VA hospital was saved by one of the employees brought in to destroy it, Fox News reports.
Dr. Katherine Mitchell told Fox News Channel's "The Kelly File" on Monday that staffers were brought in on a Saturday for mandatory overtime but were not told that they were doing work that would destroy evidence of the secret list.
According to retired VA Dr. Sam Foote, the hospital kept a list of patients on paper until their appointment times were within two weeks, then transferred them to a computer system to make it appear the hospital was meeting VA wait-time goals.
But Mitchell told Fox's Megyn Kelly that every time a veteran requests a new patient appointment, the computer generates a "fingerprint" of the request.
"What the Health Administration Service didn't realize is that you could actually print a list of every patient that's requested a new patient appointment," Mitchell said.
When they found out about the "fingerprints" the week of April 24, the hospital administration brought in eligibility staff members "to essentially go into the computer and electronically erase that list," Mitchell said.
The employees weren't told they were destroying evidence, Mitchell said. "They were just told that they were making appointments with a new set of computer keys."
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One of the staff members figured out what was happening and "found a way to prevent that from happening, at least until the following Monday," Mitchell said.
The action was taken after hospital officials had been made aware of an inspector general's investigation and had been ordered to preserve documents, she said.
Mitchell said someone in the senior administration gave the order that would have destroyed the evidence, but she wouldn't identify the person because of the ongoing investigation. She said she has no knowledge whether director Sharon Helman was involved.
Helman, associate director Lance Robinson and another unnamed employee have been placed on leave during the investigation, and the American Legion has called for the resignation
of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and two aides over the Phoenix scandal and others.
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