Fayetteville VA Delays Limited Chances for Cancer Patients, Inspector General Report Says

FAYETTEVILLE — An oral cancer patient has died after a series of delays in care by staff at the Ozarks Veterans Health Care System, according to a new report.

The report, released Monday, outlines the results of an inspection conducted by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs‘ Office of Inspector General into an alleged delay in community care coordination.

Delays in planning and coordination “limited the patient’s opportunity to receive optimal treatment and potentially a more favorable outcome,” according to the report’s summary.

The Office of Inspector General was unable to determine whether the delays contributed to the patient’s death, due to the aggressive nature of the cancer and the complexity of the treatments.

The office found that radical resection surgery was recommended by an otolaryngology provider and accepted by the patient on March 8, 2020, but Community Care Office staff took no action for more three months after the first consultation.

The facility’s otolaryngology provider referred the patient to a community hospital, as the facility does not offer the surgery, according to the report.

“Due to a series of delays and a lack of follow-up from staff in the facility’s Community Care Office, the patient was not evaluated by a head and neck surgeon in a community hospital for six months and did not undergo the necessary surgery at a community hospital until September 29, 2020,” the report states. “The patient waited 205 days from initial consultation to surgery .”

Veterans Health Administration policy is to schedule community care appointments within 30 days, the report said.

The patient’s care and surgery were delayed because Community Care Office staff did not thoroughly review the patient’s electronic health record when coordinating community care services for the patient, according to the report.

Community Care Office staff “failed to coordinate the patient’s post-surgical radiation therapy” and “delayed coordination of chemotherapy within the six-week timeframe requested by the community provider,” the report said.

The patient, who had a history of head and neck cancers, saw an oncology resident at the facility on December 4, 2020. The resident noted that the benefits of radiation therapy for the patient were “diminished at this point “.

The patient was placed in hospice care and died in early 2021, according to the report.

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