The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provided additional details today into its investigation of its hospital in Tomah, Wisconsin, following a report from The Center for Investigative Reporting documenting runaway narcotic prescriptions, retaliatory management and overdose deaths.
A statement released by the VA said that “a clinical review team consisting of specialists” will go to Tomah within two weeks to “review medication prescription practices there.” The internal investigation also would include representatives from the VA’s Office of Accountability Review.
The statement said that while the investigation continued, the hospital’s chief of staff, David Houlihan, had been reassigned to the VA’s regional office and would not be allowed to see patients or prescribe medicine until the investigation had concluded.
Rep. Ron Kind, a Wisconsin Democrat who had asked for the investigation, released a statement praising the decision, saying the public would receive its first update in four to six weeks. He added that he and Sen. Tammy Baldwin, another Wisconsin Democrat, had spoken to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald about problems at the Tomah VA this morning.
“The VA is right to launch a full investigation into opiates being over-prescribed at the Tomah VA, so we can figure out the extent of the problem and work to ensure that it’s resolved as soon as possible,” Kind said.
In its statement, the VA detailed a series of reforms it said it had already undertaken to rein in prescriptions following a scathing inspector general’s report that was finalized last March but not made public.
The VA said it had already stripped Houlihan of his most complex patients, removed him as co-chair of the hospital’s pain committee and realigned the facility’s management structure so that pharmacists no longer directly reported to him.
This story was edited by Amy Pyle and copy edited by Sheela Kamath.