In response to recent deaths at Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals throughout Florida and the rest of the nation, on April 1, 2014, Governor Rick Scott wrote a letter to the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) requesting the agency begin inspecting VA hospitals in the Sunshine Health Network. This network under investigation includes Florida, south Georgia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. So far the VA has denied AHCA any permission to inspect its hospitals, and it is unclear whether the federal government will allow such inspections moving forward.
To see a copy of the Governor’s letter to the AHCA, click here.
Governor Scott Wants Answers in Patient Death Cases.
According to The Tampa Bay Tribune, Governor Scott wants answers in regard to the deaths of five patients in the VA region serving Florida. It was reported in March 2014, that five cancer patients died and nine others sustained injuries because of delays in diagnosis or treatment. The Tampa Bay Tribune report states that the delays were less than a year but more than 90 days. So far, VA officials have not said at which hospitals the deaths occurred, which concerns Governor Scott. Through AHCA’s investigation he hopes to determine where the deaths took place, how the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is going to ensure the quality of care for veterans improves, and how the federal government can increase transparency on the quality of care in VA hospitals.
AHCA Agents Booted from One Florida VA Hospital.
Two days after Governor Scott’s letter was sent to AHCA, two agency inspectors were allegedly denied access to records at the VA Medical Center in Riviera Beach, Florida, according to the Palm Beach Post. The inspectors were told an official response would be provided from the VA’s national office in Washington, D.C. One VA spokeswoman stated that the VA will cooperate with AHCA, but could not do so on the specific day of AHCA’s inspection.
To read the entire article from the Palm Beach Post, click here.
It is not yet known how the VA will work with AHCA in regards to inspections. Check our blog regularly for updates.
Florida’s Lack of Legal Authority and Federal Supremacy.
Governor Scott apparently has forgotten that the state lacks authority over federal facilities and federal agencies. The federal government and its laws and regulations are superior to and take precedence over any state laws, regulations or authorities. This is a key principle of our constitutional government in the United States of America.
I am sensitive to such issues having personally lived through times when state governors “stood up to” the federal government while trying to keep public schools from being desegregated during the Civil Rights Era. The “states rightists” lost that battle like Governor Scott is likely to lose this battle.
As a lawyer friend of mine used to say in reference to similar conflicts between state and federal authorities, “I seem to recall that we fought a war about this issue some time in the past and the South lost.”
I doubt that Governor Scott is ignorant of the law. I also doubt that the VA or any other federal agency is likely to give up its autonomy to kowtow state officials. I believe it is most likely that Governor Scott is merely grand standing to make a show that may appeal to state right advocates and veterans as part of his campaign for reelection. But, of course, this is just my personal opinion.
Contact a Health Law Attorney Experienced in the Representation of Veterans Administration (VA) Physician Representation and Military Physician Representation.
The attorneys of The Health Law Firm have represented physicians, psychologists, nurse practitioners, nurse and other health professionals working in Veterans Administration medical centers and clinics throughout the United States. Representation has included personnel and employment issues, disciplinary action, investigations, peer review investigations, clinical privileges actions, fair hearings, National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) actions and appeals.
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What do you think of Governor Scott’s request for answers? Why do you think the AHCA agents were denied access? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.
Scott, Rick. Letter from Governor Rick Scott to Ms. Elizabeth Dudek at the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration. (April 1, 2014). From: http://www.flgov.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/SKMBT_C35314040107040.pdf
Altman, Howard. “Gov. Scott Asks Answer in VA Hospital Deaths.” The Tampa Bay Tribune. (April 1, 2014). From: http://tbo.com/list/military-news/gov-scott-wants-inspection-of-federal-hospitals-20140401/
Bennett, George. “Turf War Escalates as 2 Florida Health Care Inspectors ‘Escorted Out’ of VA Hospital, Official Says.” Palm Beach Post. (April 3, 2014). From: http://www.postonpolitics.com/2014/04/turf-war-escalates-as-2-florida-health-care-inspectors-escorted-out-of-va-hospital-official-says/
About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.
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