Every doctor has a “war story” from the VA – Rebel.MD

In today’s Wall Street Journal, Dr. Hal Scherz has a piece entitled “Doctors’ War Stories From VA Hospitals” highlighting just a few of the horror stories of archaic and dangerous care provided within the VA system.  A couple of his stories to consider:

Scott Barbour, an orthopedic surgeon and a friend, trained at the Miami VA hospital. In an attempt to get more patients onto the operating-room schedule, he enlisted fellow residents to clean the operating rooms between cases and transport patients from their rooms into the surgical suites. Instead of offering praise for their industriousness, the chief of surgery reprimanded the doctors and put a stop to their actions. From his perspective, they were not solving a problem but were making federal workers look bad, and creating more work for others, like nurses, who had to take care of more post-op patients.

Did you get that? The resident found a way to help more patients, and was told to stand down because it made the federal “workers” look bad. This is the type of story I hear from my Michigan union friends who are prohibited from working hard, innovating or helping others on the line.  It’s one thing to protect and cater down to the laziest workers on the GM line, no one dies (although that may be up for debate). It’s another thing entirely to protect the lazy worker when patients’ lives are on the line.

At the VA hospital in St. Louis, urologist Michael Packer, a former partner of mine, had difficulty getting charts from the medical records department. He and another resident hunted them down themselves. It was easier for department workers to say that they couldn’t find a chart than to go through the trouble of looking. Without these records, patients could not receive care, which was an unacceptable situation to these doctors. Not long after they began doing this, they were warned to stand down.

These stories are not isolated, not even close. I can guarantee that every doctor, medical student, resident…anyone with the Hippocratic Oath tugging at their conscience…can tell a “war story” from the VA.   That’s why every doctor’s blood pressure rises whenever the VA is held on a pedestal as a model of “socialized medicine”.


We all know the truth, and we all have some patients and situations we can’t forget. We shake our heads quietly and think…you fools. You really don’t know what happens behind those walls. Maybe it’s time to stop shaking our heads and start opening our mouths, for our veterans, for our fellow Americans and for our own souls.

If you’ve seen something, say something. Email your story to admin@rebel.md and shed some light.

 Dr. Hal Scherz is a pediatric urologist from Georgia and president of Docs4PatientCare, follow Dr. Scherz on Twitter at @drhalatlanta

Photo by ortizmj12

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