Investigation uncovers ‘gross errors,’ radiologist intimidation at one medical center

A federal investigation has uncovered radiologist intimidation and “gross errors” in imaging care at one Veterans Affairs medical center.

The VA Office of the Inspector General recently launched the probe after receiving an anonymous tip. It found a host of concerns at the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center in Milwaukee, including treatment delays, misleading modifications to patient records and leadership largely tolerant of these practices.

“Facility leaders failed to successfully manage or address the impact of interpersonal conflicts within the medical imaging service that included intimidation of staff radiologists,” the Office of the Inspector General wrote April 29. “The OIG was concerned that ongoing interpersonal conflicts, coupled with the lack of defined plans for resolution, had the potential to adversely affect patient care.”

Investigators noted that one radiologist who holds the title of “medical imaging service manager,” in particular, was at the heart of these conflicts. In one instance, the manager deleted another radiologist’s completed MRI report with normal findings and replaced it with his own interpretation of “abnormal.” Staff radiologists also reported being pressured by that same manager to add addenda to already completed radiology reports to update the final interpretation.

“Antagonistic interactions between the division manager and the subject radiologist caused tension throughout the medical imaging service and created a tense, uncomfortable work environment,” the report noted.

In an included response from the medical center, Director Daniel Zomchek said the VA has launched an external review of the allegations, along with a survey of its workplace climate. OIG has offered its own set of eight recommendations, ranging from employee training to increased imaging oversight.

You can read the full 47-page report here and a one-page summary here.