CHICAGO — U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk said a doctor at a suburban Chicago veterans hospital told him Friday that “boxes and boxes” of echocardiograms went unread for weeks and in some cases not read until after the patients died, the latest allegations in a widening national scandal about shoddy medical care provided to the nation’s veterans.
Appearing with a VA whistleblower who described widespread intimidation and harassment of employees at Edward Hines, Jr. VA hospital, Kirk stopped short of saying that any of the deaths were caused by the failure to read the tests.
Neither he nor the whistleblower, a VA social worker and union representative, Germaine Clarno, would identify the doctor who told Kirk about the echocardiogram. Clarno declined to provide any documentation because she said it would identify staffers who were already in fear of being punished or fired.
But at a news conference at Kirk’s office just hours after President Barack Obama announced that Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki had stepped down, the Illinois Republican and Clarno outlined what Kirk called a “culture of corruption” putting the lives of veterans at risk.
“My concern is from what I heard from the whistleblower today is one physician… described virtual clinics where people were claimed to be seen and hadn’t really been seen,” said Kirk, a veteran himself.