Georgia VA radiology department draws ire of federal legislator

U.S. Rep. John Barrow (D-Ga.) has written a letter to the acting inspector general of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs asking for an investigation into possible irregularities in the radiology department at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta, Georgia, the Augusta Chronicle has reported.

This follows a televised report on WAGT that raised allegations--based on an anonymous letter received by NBC station--that a radiologist at the medical center had consistently misread patient scans, leading to incorrect diagnoses and unnecessary medical procedures.

In that same report, Katherine Matthews, the radiologist named, responded by charging that the letter was payback for complaints she has made in the past about wasteful spending and exam backlogs.

For example, in the report, she charges that the hospital spent millions of dollars on a new PET-CT scanner that went unused for a year. As a result, she said in the television report, she filed a suit against the medical center and is now on paid leave from the facility.

Though unconnected to the investigation currently taking place regarding falsified records and treatment delays at other Veterans Affairs facilities, Barrow said in the letter that the Charlie Norwood radiology department needs to be similarly investigated.

"This issue is far too serious for us to overlook," he wrote.

Last month, a retired VA doctor alleged that a VA Medical Center in Texas made a practice of asking doctors to change the requested date for imaging exams in order to hide backlogs for these tests. In a letter written by Joseph L. Spann to the VA Inspector General, Spann charged that he has seen the manipulation of medical appointments--much like those reported recently at a VA Center in Phoenix--at the VA outpatient clinic and Central Texas VA hospital in Temple.

The chief of radiology, according to Spann, would ask ordering physicians to move scheduled procedures out beyond 30 days so that it would appear that the procedure had been performed within a closer time of the written order.

To learn more:
- read the Augusta Chronicle article
- see the televised report from NBC26.com

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