A doctor was hired by the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) despite a patient complaint alleging “unprofessional conduct." In another case, a nurse whose license had been revoked for patient neglect was hired by the VHA, but later resigned.
Those two instances of health care providers being hired by the VHA despite marks on their professional licenses are among those found in a report released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) Feb. 28. The report examines the credentialing process the VHA uses when hiring and retaining health care providers who care for veterans.
VHA has consistently hired or retained ineligible medical providers, according to the GAO report, citing hiring staff who “overlooked or missed disqualifying information in a national database (known as the National Practitioner Data Bank)” or “didn’t know that providers with valid licenses were ineligible (for employment) if they had surrendered a license or had one revoked in another state.”
The VHA uses the NPDB to determine if providers have been disciplined by a state licensing board or health care facility. Such disciplinary actions result in adverse actions that may disqualify providers from working at the VHA.
According to the report, the medical license of the doctor mentioned above was voluntarily surrendered before a state licensing board could file formal charges, but the doctor also had an active and unrestricted license in another state when hired by the VHA in 2016.
The report studied 57 providers who work in VHA facilities across the country. The GAO found that the VHA responded in various ways to adverse information found in the NPDB.
“VHA facilities did not consistently adhere to policies regarding providers with adverse actions,” the report states. “Among other issues, GAO found that some facility officials were not aware of VHA employment policies.”
VHA staff that is responsible for credentialing are not provided with mandatory training and that may result in their not understanding “the policies and hiring potentially ineligible providers,” added the report.
Susan Carter, director of the Veterans Administration's Media Relations Office, said the VHA completed an extensive review of all departmental health care providers in January of 2018 to "ensure compliance with all licensure qualification requirements. As a result of that review, VA fired 11 providers who were hired improperly."
In January of this year, the VHA revised a nearly 10-year-old policy to make sure it is better able to ensure its providers meet licensure qualification requirements, she added.
The GAO also recommended that VHA staffers responsible for credentialing and hiring receive periodic mandatory training and that periodic reviews be completed for providers who have adverse actions on their NPDBs.