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Syracuse VA paid $2 million in medical malpractice claims over past two decades

A recent review by the Project on Government Oversight looked into the question of how much VA medical centers around the nation have been paying out in medical malpractice claims. Although government records demonstrate that veterans are much less likely than civilians to file medical malpractice claims, both the Project and the VA wanted to measure malpractice payouts in order to gauge the quality of treatment our veterans are receiving at the VA.

After examining a Department of Veterans Affairs database of more than 12,000 medical malpractice claims filed against VA hospitals across the nation between 1989 and 2008, the Project's researchers ranked the VA health centers for quality of care in terms of medical negligence and poor claims having been paid out. Unfortunately, one of our local centers ranked among the worst: The Syracuse VA Medical Center.

The VA Medical Center in Syracuse has settled eight cases of medical malpractice over the period studied, and the total amount paid to the victims was over $2 million.

Thirty-one claims were filed against the Syracuse VA Medical Center over the 19-year period covered by the database, ten claims which involved the death of patients. Five of the claims resulted in payouts totaling $466,500. Three additional claimants received a total of $1.56 million as the result of court judgments against the Syracuse VA Medical Center.

Missed and incorrect diagnoses, treatment delays and complications arising from treatments were included in the list of reasons for filing the malpractice claims.

Although the amounts awarded in cases involving the Syracuse VA Medical Center may appear to be high, the number of claims and the amounts paid out are actually lower than amounts paid out in malpractice claims made against hospitals in the State of New York.

Management at the Syracuse VA Medical Center attributes the low number of claims to the high-quality care offered by the center along with a constant search for ways to improve service and reduce risk.

There was good news for Syracuse vets: The study found that patient satisfaction scores place the Syracuse VA Medical Center among the best of the 153 medical care facilities operated by the Veterans Administration.

Source: Syracuse Post-Standard, "Syracuse VA Medical Center's malpractice claims total $2 million over 19 years," James T. Mulder, June 2, 2011

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