Veterans Affairs limits surgeries at some hospitals after deaths

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Veterans Affairs Department is limiting the types of surgeries performed at some of its hospitals following a systemwide review prompted by surgical deaths at its southern Illinois hospital.

Under a new system, the VA has given each hospital a "surgical complexity" level. Because of that, hospitals in at least five states will now only perform less-complicated surgeries. The hospitals are in Alexandria, LA; Beckley, WV; Fayetteville, NC; Danville, IL; and Spokane, WA.

The VA will pick up the tab for patients who have surgeries performed elsewhere.

In a statement Thursday, Dr. Robert Petzel, the VA's undersecretary of health, said the review was part of VA's effort to "meet uncompromising standards of inpatient surgery."

Inpatient surgeries remain suspended in Marion, IL, which serves veterans in parts of Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky.

They were suspended in 2007, when a surgeon resigned after a patient bled to death following gallbladder surgery. Investigators found at least nine deaths between October 2006 and March 2007 resulted from substandard care and another 10 patients died after receiving questionable care that complicated their health.

Last year, the VA performed more than 357,000 inpatient surgeries. Under the new system, about 250 of those surgeries would have been performed outside the VA.

Alexandria, VA - Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.