Dr. Katherine Mitchell: "I had seen evidence of things covered up in the past." (Source: CBS 5 News)
(Source: CBS 5 News)
PHOENIX (CBS5) -
A second whistleblower is sharing her story with CBS5 about problems at the Phoenix VA Medical Center. A doctor has stepped forward to discuss concerns she says she has shared for years with VA management.
Dr. Katherine Mitchell has a number of veterans in her family. Her desire to work with and help those who have served is what drove her passion of working inside the Phoenix VA Medical Center for 16 years.
She began as a nurse, went to medical school and eventually became the supervising ER physician.
Mitchell says patient care is suffering at the VA and she's expressed her feelings over the Medical Center's shortcomings over the past several years.
"It's incredibly dysfunctional," says Mitchell.
Mitchell says the day before Sharon Helman took over as director in early 2012, Mitchell pulled her aside and laid out her case.
"Without additional staffing and services and without triage nurse training," Mitchell told Helman, "our ER was dangerous and should be shut down immediately."
VA managers came back days later to tell Mitchell she was the problem and her concerns went unheeded.
"I really don't know how someone didn't die. I was running around like crazy trying to address all these needs," said Mitchell.
A congressional committee has ordered VA records be preserved as an investigation unfolds.
Just this past week, Mitchell and a colleague set out to make sure nothing was destroyed.
"I had seen evidence of things covered up in the past and I had no reason to believe it wouldn't happen again," she said. "Problems within the VA system are covered up. That inspections, if they have advanced notice, the problems are covered up."
Mitchell says the VA police wouldn't take custody of the records but suggested Mitchell herself secure them somewhere within the facility until they could be handed over to the inspector general.
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