Between 2014 and 2017, inventory records show Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facilities throughout Ohio have lost track of more than $1.1 million worth of medical equipment.
As first reported by WBNS-TV on Tuesday, VA medical centers in Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Dayton and Chillicothe all reported losses of varying degrees, with higher price-tag losses including a patient sign-in kiosk worth $8,500, a portable patient lift worth $5,000, a $28,000 bedside monitor and stretcher listed at $12,000.
These gigantic items were all reported as "lost."
Back in May, Congresswoman Kathleen Rice (D – New York) told VA officials during a hearing for the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, “This mismanagement caused delays in Veterans care and waste taxpayer dollars – it is beyond unacceptable.”
As of 2017, the price of these losses were recorded as follows:
- Columbus = $318,068.38
- Chillicothe = $279,912.45
- Cleveland = $234,867.70
- Cincinnati = $200,634.76
- Dayton = $90,305.60
Even after the VA spent approximately $24 million in Ohio (part $400 million spent nationwide) on tracking device technology, some of these facilities still continued to lose equipment.
The tracking technology, known as real-time location systems or RTLS, relies on computer databases, Wi-Fi signals and radio frequency identification tags that either ping out a device’s location or allow a VA employee to scan for the items individually with the goal of keeping track of the equipment’s location at any time.
Unfortunately, the technology frequently experienced interference, lack of signal, and RTLS tags weren’t installed properly or couldn’t find certain items listed in the inventory.
In some of these cases VA officials legitimately could not track down the items, in others, it appears the items had been turned in or sold but there was no inventory record or receipt to prove that.
The VA’s own internal documents uncovered by 10 Investigates indicated that, in some cases, the "lost" items were simply the result of poor record keeping.
According to the Associated Press, Cincinnati VA spokesman Greg Goins says Ohio facilities have stopped buying tracking technology. When asked if taxpayer dollars are being wasted, he said officials “aren’t going to allow that to happen.”