Veterans Affairs hospitals have spent millions on solar panels while veterans waited months to see a doctor.
Delayed care resulted in at least 23 deaths, according to one VA fact sheet. In Phoenix, 18 patients died while waiting for treatment, acting Veteran Affairs Secretary Sloan Gibson revealed on June 5.
The VA scandal has resulted in the resignations of both Secretary and the leaders of its health care component.
That same Phoenix facility spent $20 million to build the nation’s largest solar carport. Phase one of the project was completed in 2011. The hospital also had an $11.4 million shortfall that year, an inspector general report stated.
The Phoenix hospital is not the only VA hospital to have installed solar panels. Millions in stimulus funds were used to install panels on two facilities, one Albuquerque, N.M., and another in nearby Tucson, Ariz. At the Tucson location, the VA spent $14.7 million between 2010 and 2012 to install solar panels on the roof of its medical center. The contract was awarded to REC Solar, the sixth-largest recipient of stimulus funds from the VA.
During the time of the solar project, one patient at the Tucson, Ariz., hospital died of colon cancer after not getting a routine colonoscopy. That death was revealed in the April fact sheet the VA released after an internal investigation.
Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, D-Ariz., recently praised the Tucson hospital for its “exemplary services.” The inspector general report gave the hospital three out of five stars for performance in 2013; the Phoenix facility earned just one star.
Even though the epicenter of the scandal remains in Phoenix, Albuquerque, N.M., has come under fire recently for falsely stating wait times and manipulating statistics to receive bonuses.
A 2012 audit by the VA’s Southwest Health Care Network revealed that VA administrators have known about the fabricated reports for two years. That audit went public only after the Arizona Republic received the document in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.