A rising problem involving drug theft at Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers has led to an increase of investigations throughout the VA network.
The Associated Press reported the rate of opioid theft, missing prescriptions, and unauthorized drug use have all gone up since 2009. The culprits, according to government data, are staff members at hospitals such as doctors, nurses, and pharmacists.
Some VA hospitals have gotten lax on their checks to make sure drug records match inventory, according to the AP. The data shows reported incidents of drug losses or theft at VA facilities skyrocketed from 272 in 2009 to nearly 3,000 in 2015. The active caseload numbers almost 100.
The VA's acting assistant inspector general for investigations Jeffrey Hughes said, "Drug theft is an area of concern."
In Baltimore, for example, a former VA employee was found to have injected himself with fentanyl that was supposed to be given to patients in surgery. The employee told investigators he would refill the syringe with saline solution and inject the patient with that via the same needle — which at that point was contaminated with Hepatitis C, which the employee was carrying.
In another case, a whistleblower claimed VA hospitals' stock of morphine was not properly monitored. Patients would even complain they were not being given enough of the powerful painkiller.
A government review found a VA hospital in Washington failed to inspect its supply of drugs 40 percent of the time. Inspections are generally carried out monthly.
The VA has been neck deep in scandal for several years, beginning in 2014 when it was reported some hospitals in the network were using fake waiting lists for reporting purposes. That practice allegedly led to the death of dozens of veterans who were waiting to see a doctor.
David Shulkin was confirmed as secretary of veterans affairs in a unanimous vote last week. Shulkin previously served as VA undersecretary for health.
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