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Florida Feuds With VA After State Inspectors Kicked Out Of Hospitals


Florida is embroiled in a fight with the Federal Veterans Affairs Administration over how patients are treated in VA hospitals. 

In recent weeks state inspectors have been repeatedly kicked out of VA hospitals after trying to inspect records.

The Agency for Healthcare Administration has authority to go into most hospitals unannounced. After all, it regulates them. But when it tried to go into hospitals owned by the VA, inspectors got the boot. AHCA was kicked out of  VA-owned hospitals in Tampa, West Palm Beach and St. Petersberg. The reason: the state does not have authority to inspect federal hospitals. Florida didn’t request permission to VA hospital records until after its inspectors were kicked out.

The state began demanding access to VA hospitals after reports of deaths and injuries due to delays in treatment emerged. The Tampa Tribune reports the VA says during the past 15 years, three people in the region encompassing Florida, South Georgia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands died because of a delay in care.

The Agency for Healthcare Administration refused an interview on the story, however in a statement, AHCA spokeswoman Shelisha Coleman says, "We are committed to our responsibility for the health, safety, and welfare of those in facilities within the state".

Governor Rick Scott directed AHCA to "shine a light"on VA hospitals, "due to an ongoing lack of transparency."

In a statement, Susan Wentzel, spokeswoman for the Sunshine Healthcare Network says, "we seek to partner and cooperate with state and local governments, but must adhere to federal law.  VA has responded to Governor Scott and is willing to set up a meeting with the state Agency for health care administration, to discuss the extensive programs and policies in place to protect the health and safety of Veterans receiving care".

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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