The Department of Veterans Affairs is implementing a new rating system for its hospitals that will limit the types of surgeries doctors can perform at some facilities. The changes come after several patients died because of surgical mistakes at one Illinois VA hospital. Officials acknowledged that at least nine patients died directly because of surgical mistakes by doctors at the Marion VA Medical Center in southern Illinois in 2006 and 2007.
A VA investigation found that poor care at Marion contributed to the deaths of at least 10 other patients, and to the illness and injury of several more. In particular, one surgeon thought to be responsible for many of the deaths, was hired even though under investigation for malpractice in Massachusetts.
Following the changes, every VA hospital will have a surgical complexity rating, and a handful of hospitals will only be allowed to perform what the VA calls standard procedures. Because hospitals in at least five states will now only perform less complicated surgeries, the VA will pay for patients needing more complex surgeries to have them elsewhere.