US Inquiry Finds Problems at Prescott VA Hospital

A full investigation by the Veterans Affairs Office of Medical Inspector - completed in September and released Thursday - concluded that some workers made medication errors, including overusing laxatives and misusing narcotics. More serious allegations of patient abuse could not be substantiated.

As a result of the investigation, the hospital has revised some procedures, increased monitoring of narcotic and laxative use, and given more training to its staff. A Phoenix doctor was brought in to review the long-term patient care and to monitor care.

The hospital acknowledged to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs investigators that it had problems finding enough workers to cover shifts in 2007 and 2008, but the VA concluded that administrators acted appropriately.

Hospital spokeswoman Ame Callahan said the hospital administration had worked hard to increase the supply of nurses and other workers, coordinating with the local community college to train new staffers, calling in nurses on overtime when needed or using extra-help "traveling" nurses.

Nurse Jerri Bedell, 56, who was fired from her part-time position in April 2008 and filed the whistle-blower complaint, questioned the thoroughness of the review. She sent a six-page response to the Office of Special Counsel outlining her concerns about the probe.

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