Atlanta VA continues to lose medical devices despite warning 2 years ago, investigation finds

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — Channel 2 Action News has learned that lifesaving medical devices lost at the Atlanta VA Medical Center were found sitting on shelves – expired.

In a joint investigation by Channel 2 Action News and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, we learned that the Atlanta VA was warned about the problem but didn’t fix it.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Justin Gray found out the devices include things like heart stents and dental implants.

Leadership here at the Atlanta VA were told back in 2019 by government auditors that there was a major issue at the hospital keeping track of those medical devices.

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But internal VA documents we have reviewed show that lost, expired implants were still being found on

shelves in recent months.

“They have no way of tracking how much money they have wasted,” is what a VA whistleblower told our partners at the AJC, asking not to be identified.

According to a series of internal VA emails we reviewed, $122,000 worth of expired heart stents were discovered sitting on shelves at the Atlanta VA in December.

What makes it all the more concerning, is that the VA was alerted by the inspector general to the same problem happening at the Atlanta VA back in 2019.

“When you have an inspector general blowing the whistle and saying there’s a problem and it doesn’t get corrected, there needs to be accountability,” said David Williams, who heads the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.

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An internal communication we obtained was sent from the inspector general to the Atlanta VA in 2019 that warned the hospital they found 30 expired stents in the Atlanta Cath lab.

Those stents were worth more than $52,000. More had to be reordered to replace stents that had expired.

“It’s frustrating to see that this happens over and over again,” Williams said.

And it wasn’t just stents.

For example, five hearing aids were ordered for one patient at more than $3,000 each, with plans to use the one that fit best and return the others but. Staff never returned them.

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The public version of the inspector general report released earlier this year found that overall, 45% of the biological implants they search for in Atlanta were missing.

VA staff has pledged to do better in their official response to the report.

But the internal documents we uncovered show that the Atlanta VA continues to make the same mistakes and continues to have major problems keeping track of these expensive devices.

“Every dollar that is wasted at a VA hospital is a dollar that’s not going to toward a patient and toward healthcare,” Williams said.

Gray contacted the Atlanta VA for comment about this story. The Atlanta VA said it has purchased a new software system specifically to track implants. It was installed in October.

Staff have now been trained and they are in a phased implementation of the software to all the departments that handle implants.