Wait time allegations at Hines VA Hospital in Maywood

HINES, Ill. (WLS) -- Many veterans are urging Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign following allegations that secret lists were used to conceal long patient wait times for appointments at veterans' hospitals like Hines VA Hospital in suburban Chicago.

They claim they treat more than 54,000 patients a year in the 471 bed hospital near Maywood. Hines VA Hospital sees veterans from around the Chicago area, but according to allegations from a union boss who represents hospital workers many have long waits before they get to see a doctor, while others get in quickly.

Mark LaBuda is one who says he's had to wait. The five year military vet says he's been told there are two different lists.

"There's a stack that gets the referrals and a stack that don't get the referrals," LaBuda said.

Union president Germaine Clarno says numerous Hines Hospital employees have told her similar stories of the lists, which first came to light recently at the VA hospital in Phoenix, prompting calls for a federal investigation. She says management is behind it since the VA issued guidelines mandating appointments for vets must be scheduled within two weeks.

"It's for job promotion and for bonuses, because they do get bonuses based on meeting this metrix," said AFGE Local 781 president Germaine Clarno.

Hospital administrators deny the allegations. Director Joan Ricard says she met with Clarno. In a statement she writes, "I am not aware of any occurrences of data manipulation here at Hines, past or present, and I have received no evidence or specific facts about data manipulations at the Hines VA."

LaBuda however is among the patients, he says, who have been forced to deal with long waits to see a doctor or receive medical care.

"It's very political at Hines. It's who you know," he said.

ABC7 Eyewitness News also spoke to numerous patients at Hines Thursday who say are happy with the treatment they receive and have no complaints. Senator Mark Kirk, however, says he is concerned about the allegations and is calling for a full investigation by the inspector general of the VA into how long veterans wait for treatment at Hines.
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