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State Dept. of Veterans Affairs Outsourcing Lab Work, Scrapping EKGs and Cutting Doctors at Veterans’ Centers Featured

Written by  State Rep. Brian Renegar Tuesday, 02 May 2017 23:51
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OKLAHOMA CITY  – As we document the reduced level of care that the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs is providing to state veterans, we need to keep in mind what they have done and what is in the works.

First, the ODVA removed the EKG machines from state veterans’ centers, claiming those centers don’t have cardiologists on staff. When the medical community debunked that theory, the ODVA decided that they would put the EKG machines back if the Legislature gave them back the $10 million we cut from their budget. The EKG machines are already paid for, so what logical explanation could the ODVA possibly give for the $10 million repayment statement?

The ODVA has cut the number of doctors at the state’s seven veterans’ centers.

Next, the ODVA is limiting the use of blood chemistry machines which are used to gauge what fluids to give a veteran. Those lab machines are already paid for, so we are going from essentially a free test to paying for a private lab test – and from 30 minutes to 24 hours for results.
The impact from outsourcing lab work:

  •  Delays in lab results will delay the diagnosis, which will delay veterans’ treatments.
  •  Delays in treatment will increase emergency room transfers.
  • Increasing ER transfers will increase hospital admissions.
  •  ER and hospital costs will impact on the ODVA, veterans and their family.
  •  Increasing hospital admission by just 5% is more than the whole lab operational cost for the whole year for the vet centers.

The ODVA plan is to close all labs at veterans’ centers, so the agency is using Diagnostic Laboratory of Oklahoma (DLO) to perform its lab work. The problem is that by using a private lab, the turnaround for veterans’ centers is about 24 hours.

But is that the only issue with using DLO? Most laboratories give a doctors rate that is far lower than the patient rate. This is one legislator who is going to check on the rate that veterans’ families are charged versus what DLO actually charges. I will do this by making open-records requests. We also need to check closely on the business arrangement between the ODVA and DLO.

Does anyone see the need here for an audit by our State Auditor?

All of these problems have come from the fact that the Department of Veterans Affairs bought a software program that is designed for nursing homes, not a veterans center. This mistake is not affecting the administration at ODVA, it is affecting our military veterans.

(Representative Renegar is a Democrat from McAlester.)

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