Dr. Sam Foote speaks out after Phoenix VA system accused of having 'secret' list

PHOENIX - The whistleblower who uncovered alleged neglect and mismanagement at the Phoenix VA Health Care system is speaking out.

Reports surfaced last week that 40 veterans may have died waiting for care at the VA hospital. 

Now top officials are accused of covering that up.

Dr. Sam Foote said he spent his last year working at the Phoenix VA hospital collecting evidence to send over to the inspector general.

The retired doctor worked there for 24 years. 

“When we found out vets were dying—it’s one thing if they’re just hiding numbers, it doesn't matter. But when vets are dying? I like to sleep at night,” Foote said.

Dr. Foote says the waiting time for doctor appointments got so bad for veterans that director Sharon Helman came up with a plan.

“They had the secret list that was paper at the time, and only when they had an appointment available in 10 to 14 days would they transfer you off the secret list onto that,” said Foote.

“The clerk would take your information, type it in a computer print screen-- capture but not save info-- and only record you were there,” he said.

“They would take it upstairs, put you on the patient waiting list and shred it, so if you died off that list, they just crossed your name off the list and it was like you were never there,” Foote said.

Meanwhile, Dr. Foote says the rest of the veterans were waiting six months to one year to see the doctor.

He showed ABC15 internal emails that reveal some employees were upset with managers who actually said wait times were improving.

Dr. Foote hopes someone will now be held accountable.

“If they were doing everything correctly, why did the associate director put 15 people on OT this weekend to put people off the lists and into legitimate appointments before the IG arrived?” said Foote.

Top leaders at the VA hospital, including director Sharon Helman denied a "secret list" existed in an interview with ABC15 last week.

Thursday, ABC15 asked Helman again whether the list existed.

She would not directly answer-- only saying the Inspector General is investigating.

Dr. Foote feels so strongly about what happened he’s asking veterans who feel they have been ignored or placed on the secret list to email him so he can get the information to investigators.

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