VA Paid $11K Bonus to Surgeon Who Left Op Room Before End of Surgery

August 23, 2013 - 5:06 PM

Veterans Affairs

(AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) paid an $11,189 performance pay bonus to a surgeon who left the operating room before a surgery was completed, leaving residents to continue the procedure without him, according to a Government Accountability Office report released on Friday.

The “[s]urgeon who was supervising residents left the operating room and medical center before the surgery was completed, allowing residents to continue the surgery without supervision until another surgeon was found to supervise the residents,” said the report.” The surgeon was suspended without pay for 14 calendar days.”

Despite this particular performance, the VA still gave the surgeon an extra $11,189 in "performance" pay.

This surgeon was not the only doctor the VA gave a performance pay bonus after the doctor had engaged in poor performance.

--The VA paid a $7,500 performance pay bonus to a doctor who was reprimanded after refusing to see assigned patients in an emergency room because he or she (GAO does not specify the gender of the doctor) believed the patients had not been triaged appropriately by the emergency department nurse. The report says the physician was reprimanded, but nonetheless received the extra performance pay.

--The VA paid $10,529 in extra performance to a doctor who had been suspended for 3 days and had received a letter of discipline after the physician “could not be reached when he was required to be available” and had engaged in inappropriate behavior that had a negative impact on the patient care environment, including yelling and outbursts.

--The VA paid $7, 663 in extra performance pay to a physician practiced with “expired license for 3 months until the medical center discovered the situation.”

The report--VA Health Care: Actions Needed To Improve Administration of the Provider Performance Pay and Award Systems—examined the VA’s performance pay award policies and oversight over VA medical centuries compliance with those policies.

The report found that in fiscal year 2011 about 80 percent of the Veterans Health Administration’s (VHA) nearly 22,500 health-care providers received around $150 million dollars in performance pay. About 20 percent of VHA’ health-care providers also received more than $10 million in performance awards.

“The performance pay policy gives VA’s 152 medical centers and 21 networks discretion in setting the goals providers must achieve to receive this pay, but does not specify an overarching purpose the goals are to support,” said the GAO.

“VA officials responsible for writing the policy told us that the purpose of performance pay is to improve health care outcomes and quality, but this is not specified in the policy," said the GAO. "Moreover, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) has not reviewed the goals set by medical centers and networks and therefore does not have reasonable assurance that the goals make a clear link between performance pay and providers’ performance.”

The GAO report looked at fiscal years 2010 and 2011, the two most recent fiscal years for which data was available, and analyzed a random sample of about 25 providers.

The GAO recommended that the VA “clarify the performance pay policy, by specifying the purpose and documentation requirements and that VHA review performance pay goals for consistency with the purpose, and improve oversight to ensure compliance.”

“The VA generally agreed with GAO’s conclusions and recommendations,” said the report.