The Department of Veterans Affairs is implementing a new rating system for its hospitals that at some facilities will limit the types of surgeries doctors can perform.
The changes come after several patients died because of surgical mistakes at one Illinois VA hospital.
VA officials acknowledge that at least nine patients died directly because of surgical mistakes by doctors at the Marion VA Medical Center in southern Illinois in 2006 and 2007. A VA investigation found that poor care at Marion contributed to the deaths of at least 10 other patients, and to the illness and injury of several more.
The investigation found doctors performing surgeries they were not qualified or trained to perform. It found the Marion VA hired one doctor in particular, thought to be responsible for many of the deaths, not knowing he was under investigation for malpractice in Massachusetts.
Following the changes, every VA hospital will have a surgical complexity rating, and a handful of hospitals will only be allowed to perform what the VA calls "standard" procedures. Because of that, hospitals in at least five states will now only perform less complicated surgeries. The hospitals are in Alexandria, La.; Beckley, W.Va.; Fayetteville, N.C.; Danville, Ill.; and Spokane, Wash.
The VA will pay for patients needing more complex surgeries to have them elsewhere.
Material from The Associated Press was used in this report