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FAYETTEVILLE -- The Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks will host another town-hall-style meeting today in its ongoing review of missed diagnoses that proved fatal to at least one patient.

Kelvin L. Parks, interim medical center director, said at the first town-hall meeting July 9 that about 2,500 cases had been reviewed so far. Every case will be reviewed by a pathologist from outside the Fayetteville-based system, he said. The review was expected to take at least six more months, attendees were told.

The Fayetteville-based system has signed a contract with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences to independently review cases, sending pathologists to work full time on the matter, system spokesman Wanda Shull confirmed Friday. At least one more contract with a university-based system is under legal review, she said.

The review began after administrators discovered a pathologist at the system's hospital in Fayetteville had tested samples while impaired, administrators said at a June 18 news conference. The pathologist, Dr. Robert Morris Levy of Fayetteville, denies he worked impaired. Seven misdiagnosed cases were found in the review, according to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs administrators.

The cases under review are prioritized by risk, Parks told the crowd. Tests for the most serious possible diagnoses, such as prostate biopsies for cancer, will be reviewed first, he said. Other risky conditions earmarked for priority are CT-guided needle biopsies, breast biopsies and endoscopies.

A number of pathologists from outside the Veterans Department have volunteered their time to conduct reviews so far, Parks said in the July meeting. He did not disclose how many. Bringing UAMS pathologists and others into a full-time review will speed the process up considerably, he said.

Levy was fired in April, according to administrators. He had been suspended in March 2016 for being impaired, but he returned to work that October after counseling and after a check of his work found no errors at the time.

Levy was again taken off clinical work in October 2017 after what the hospital described as a second instance of working while impaired. His dismissal in April came after a personnel review.

All 19,794 veterans or family members whose cases were handled by Levy were sent letters that a review is underway, according to Parks. More than one test was performed on some of the patients, requiring review of more than 30,000 samples.

The Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks serves veterans in 23 counties in Northwest Arkansas, southwest Missouri and eastern Oklahoma.

Levy confirmed in an earlier interview that he worked while impaired with alcohol in 2016 but said he did not work while impaired afterward. The system won't say if Levy is the pathologist involved because it's a personnel matter, Shull has said.

A crowd of at least 150 attended the last town hall, consisting almost exclusively of veterans or family members who had received letters telling them their cases were under review. That was according to a show of hands when Parks asked how many there had received a letter.

Most of the audience's questions regarded how anyone in the pathologist's position of responsibility could work impaired without anyone noticing or taking action. Parks told the crowd the system's handling of the matter is the subject of a separate investigation by the federal Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General. There is no timeline on the inspector general's report, he said.

Metro on 08/20/2018

Print Headline: Update set on misdiagnosed cases

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