The first time I had a case involving the medical care a patient received at a VA facility, I was surprised to learn that one of the doctors (a former VA employee) had major complaints about the VA himself. Since then, I have had another case where an ex-VA doctor was willing to speak out about his concerns involving patient care. A recent article out of Phoenix, Arizona shows these situations aren’t limited to Virginia.
The Arizona Republic recently reported about Dr. Maher Huttam, who says he was fired and then defamed after exposing unsafe medical practices at the Phoenix VA Medical Center. The practices he identified included that doctors in training (residents) did not have proper oversight and that supervising doctors were doing procedures without proper certification. These practices, according to Dr. Huttam, resulted in complications for patients, complications like blocked colons, intestinal spills, and abscesses.
Any complication is concerning, but preventable medical complications are much more so. For several reasons, including patient privacy, it is difficult to independently verify Dr. Huttam’s reports. I can say, however, based on personal experience with VA medical malpractice cases, that doctors who are willing to voice their concerns earn my respect. I imagine it is difficult to speak out about a colleague and even more difficult when doing so may endanger your career.
I commend doctors who keep patient safety at the forefront of their medical practice even at great personal risk. We are all safer for it.