ST. LOUIS - More outrageous claims about the care of our nation's veterans are surfacing with St. Louis making that reprehensible list.
Federal investigators are now scrutinizing the St. Louis V-A Health system after the former head of psychiatry went public with serious allegations about the care and treatment of veterans seeking mental health treatment.
Dr. Jose Mathews took over as the Chief of Psychiatry at the St. Louis VA in 2012. He says he was shocked to learn that psychiatrists were seeing just six patients a day when he says they should be seeing double that amount. He said it was as if the entire department agreed to just work a half day.
"Six patients a day is the equivalent of about four hours of work. We should be seeing 12 patients a day if not more," explained Dr. Mathews.
When he ordered staff to schedule more patients, he was allegedly told by the chief of staff, there was a mutiny. He says he was reassigned to a basement office to handle medical claims and was forbidden to talk to fellow psychiatrists who formerly reported to him.
The average wait time for those veterans seeking help for mental illness grew to nearly 30 days, Mathews said. He filed a federal whistleblower lawsuit last year when his complaints, he says, were ignored.
A spokesperson with the St. Louis VA denied Dr. Mathews claims issuing the following statement:
We thank you for your interest in Veterans issues. These are important issues worthy of public attention. These allegations are very are serious. In response we have conducted a thorough review of our mental health provider productivity and on average our full time psychiatrists are seeing 14 patients per day, which is at or above the VA productivity standards and consistent with industry standards… We appreciate the media's diligence in accurate reporting. Any perpetuated fallacies could prevent Veterans from coming to VA to seek the medical help and benefits they deserve.
Dr. Mathews says that is already happening. He says 60 percent of patients don't return to the St. Louis VA after their third treatment. But he says it has nothing to do with news coverage. Instead he says it's based on a culture inside the VA more interested in providing data to boost recognition in Washington while caring little for the veterans they should be serving.
Both Missouri Senators sent a joint letter to the head of the VA, Eric Shinseki.
Are you a veteran who receives treatment in St. Louis with a story that needs to be told? E-mail Leisa at firstname.lastname@example.org.