KGUN9 — A 9 On Your Side investigation into a severe staffing crisis at the Southern Arizona VA that’s affecting the care of our veterans. A crisis that insiders say comes close to the Phoenix scandal though Southern Arizona VA administrators managed to escape scrutiny after an internal review in 2014. For the first time, staff speaks out to expose a broken system and accused cover-ups.
Garry Riggs loves to fish — bass — specifically, but he finds it hard to schedule the time. You see, the Vietnam-era veteran has only a few ‘quality’ hours a day to work with, instead spending most of his time in bed in constant severe pain from the rods in his neck and back. He pops a percoset pill every three hours, but the dosage is no longer strong enough. “I refuse to take more that what I’m taking now,” he said.
He knows he’s addicted. Riggs needs to see a primary care doctor, but he’s waited several months — his last appointment in October cancelled because his doctor was leaving. “They said they were getting temps in — temporary doctors — and they were having difficulties even getting temps in,” said Riggs.
Records KGUN9 obtained of the physicians who separated from the SAVA in the last six years show his last doctor worked for the Southern Arizona VA just over a year. His doctor before that — four years.
And we uncovered this startling fact: From 2009 to 2015, of the 247 doctors who left the VA, 80 percent left within 5 years. 70 percent of those doctors left in 1 or 2 years. And 33 didn’t even make it past six months.