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Sen. Blunt: Kansas City VA Medical Center Kept Unauthorized Cardiology Waiting List

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Update, 4:45 p.m.:

The Kansas City Veterans Affairs Medical Center says its cardiology clinic never kept a secret waiting list, but "a serious clerical mistake" delayed several veterans waiting for follow-up care.

Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt flagged the facility Thursday in a growing scandal over long wait times for veterans. He told reporters he planned to press the hospital for more information "based on my firm belief the Kansas City Medical Center is likely to be found to be one of those hospitals that has a secret waiting list."

A spokesman for Blunt says 37 patients were kept on an unofficial waiting list in the Kansas City Medical Center's cardiology clinic. 

"All of these veterans were established patients already receiving care at the Kansas City VA Medical Center and this in no way reflects a list of veterans being denied care due to a lack of capacity," the Kansas City VA Medical Center said in a statement, released Friday afternoon.

The statement goes on to say that a May 29 letter to Blunt from the VA Heartland Network incorrectly identified 12 Kansas City-area veterans as waiting more than 90 days for care.

"Five of these individuals are veterans already receiving primary care, but were awaiting acupuncture," according to the statement. "Appointments were either moved forward for these individuals or the acupuncture care moved into the community. The remainder of the individuals represent scheduling errors, Veterans who wished to have a date beyond 90 days, or individuals who are not seeking primary care."

Officials with the Department of Veterans Affairs have been investigating wait times at facilities across the country since an investigation revealed more than twice as many veterans waiting for care in Phoenix than the official roster showed.

Administrators have an incentive to keep official waiting lists short because they're used to determine bonuses and raises.

Last week, the Robert J. Dole VA Medical Center in Wichita, Kan., also admitted to keeping a secret waiting list for its patients

Other local elected officials have been putting pressure on the VA to own up to any mistakes in managing patient care. In a visit last month, Kansas Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder said he didn't see any evidence of secret waiting lists during his stop at the Kansas City Medical Center.

"But that's the point of secret waiting lists," says Yoder, of Overland Park. "They're secret."

Elle Moxley covered education for KCUR.
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