VA Hospital Problems to be Examined by Congressional Panel

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By: AboutLawsuits | Published: June 3rd, 2009

A congressional panel will look into the recent problems at VA Hospitals that occurred in at least three states, where thousands of veterans were potentially exposed to HIV, Hepatitis C and other diseases caused by unsterilized equipment.

The U.S. House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs oversight and investigations subcommittee scheduled a hearing for June 16, 2009, to inquire about the issues that resulted in letters being sent to10,555 former VA hospital patients recommending that they obtain blood tests because they were treated with equipment that was not properly cleaned between patients.

As of May 18, 2009, more than 8,000 patients had been tested. Five of those patients tested positive for HIV and 43 tested positive for hepatitis.

The congressional subcommittee intends to look at what caused the VA hospital problems, which affected patients at VA facilities in Miami, Fl., Murfreesboro, Tenn., and Augusta, Ga., where patients were exposed to improperly cleaned or operated endoscopic equipment used primarily for colonoscopies.

At the Alvin C. York Medical Center in Murfreesboro, where the first VA hospital contamination problems were first discovered, an incorrect valve may have caused contaminated bodily fluids to be transferred from person-to-person.

A subsequent review of procedures at all facilities led to the discovery of similar problems at Miami Veterans Affairs Healthcare System and the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta.

The potential exposures occurred during treatments as far back as April 2003 at the Tennessee GI Clinic, May 2004 at the Miami GI Clinic and January 2008 at the Augusta ENT Clinic.

The Department of Veteran Affairs identified human error and improper training as key factors in the problems. For example, at the Miami VA clinic, a colonoscopy tube was cleaned only once per day instead of after every use.

While it is unclear whether the problems at the VA hospitals directly led to the reported cases of HIV and hepatitis infections, the subcommittee chair, U.S. Rep Harry Mitchell (D-AZ), said last week, “whether it came from these improper procedures or not, the VA has a responsibility to take care of these patients.”

Over 100 VA personnel at the three hospitals have been assigned to make sure that potentially affected veterans receive prompt testing and counseling.

In the wake of the initial discovery of potential contamination a Murfreesboro last December, the VA has investigated potential problems at 153 facilities nationwide. VA officials also reportedly discovered problems at 12 other facilities, which they did not identify. None of those problems have required follow-up blood tests, according to the Department of Veteran Affairs.

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There Are 14 Comments So Far • (Add Your Comments)

  1. I worked at the VA hospital in Albuquerque, New Mexico. As a former CWT housekeeping worker, we were asked to pick-up and transport BIO HAZARDS (body fluids) without training, and or protective gear. When we transported containers of BIO HAZARDS in the hospital, we were told NOT to wear ANY PROTECTIVE GEAR. Not even gloves.

    We were also TOLD to wear protective gowns when entering a room were the patient had an infectious disease. However, the gowns were one size only (medium) so CWT and EMS housekeeping workers NEVER wear protective gowns.

  2. My husband contracted Hep C at the Augusta VA and noone ever told us there was a problem, they acted like it was something he had done. He had had a bleeding ulcer and had a endoscopy and colonoscopy just before the Hep C diagnosis. I always wondered why they had tested him for it all of the sudden.

  3. VARO,Roanoke Virginia has submitted forgery documents and has falsified medical records in rating decisions.. Has harassed and violated the veterans constitutional rights

  4. I was tested in April of 2009, altough I have asked several times I still have not been given the results of my test.

  5. I hate the VA and all it’s bullshit.

    I’m an 11B and have been for the past 15 years. I did 6 months in the Sinai and 17 months in Iraq. This is bullshit the way they treat Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, and Airmen. We are not numbers, we are people!

  6. I had a prostate biopsy in Togas VA medical center during the time when unsterile equiptment was used. Then I was found to have HEP B.
    I never tested possitive before. And the VA says, “No wasn’t us”

  7. During an initial examination at the Miami VA Hospital I was sexually assaulted by a male nurse practitioner. I was weak, underweight, sick
    and dependent on the VA for medications. I couldn’t go back their
    After a year I sent a email to the VA Inspector General. The Miami VA
    investigated; but refused to release the report. A whistle blower MD finally sent it to me; and it concluded I was sexually assaulted; but also, that this nurse had a 17 year history of these assaults on patients and in one case on an intern. The Miami VA either ignored it when complaints were files, sent him to ethics classes; but always put him right back in patient care….the nurse is still there

  8. I had the honor of completing my residency training @ Tuskegee where during my training I met the head of ER who was instrumental in bringing awareness to desert storm syndrome. He was black. I also wtiness how black and white veterans would hang out together at the hospital…my most touching memory is of a white veteran pushing a black one around in a wheel chair. Shortly after my training in Tuskegee I spent time working in southern Illinois which included part-time consultation at the Marion VAMC from ’94 to ’95. I enjoyed my work there but before a full year was completed I was terminated and was not even warned of it…I found out thru someone in Evansville, IN where I also would make the 2 and 1/2 hours drive every Thursday for the satellite clinic there. Someone called me while at the Marion saying they (at Marion) were contacting him to see if he would take that post because the guy they were going to use in my place REFUSE to go there once a week! I was beyond upset and offended. I too am black and was being replaced by a white male. It seems OUR veterans are more opened minded than the THUGS running the entire VA system and many times there is a VERY fine line between corruption and misdeeds and racsm. Since my termination, Marion has gone thru several podiatrists and I have tried to get rehire there without success not to mention the other issues with that facility because of their racist and corrupt management. And that guy they hired in my place has since lost his license to practice in Illinois! See how stupid racism is..eg. when hiring someone based solely on race and gender above one’s qualities and experience DESPITE one’s race! Now you got this thing with St Louis where I now reside close to and it was a BLACK woman who tried to warn of the potential of inadequate sterilization and she was terminated! The racissm dsipalyed in the VA system is literally KILLING our more PROGRESSIVE veterans if not jeopardining their health and I for one believe that for NOW ON, the secretary of veterans affairs should not be some foreigner BUT a US born VETERAN him/herself. Because only VETERANS understand the need to treat other veterans with respect and dignity and CONGRESS should be ashamed of themselves for allowing all this corruption, racism and incompetence go on for all these years! God bless our vertans (including my late uncle who served in the Korean war and one more living but with multiple health problems who served in the vietnam war) and I hope this comment will bring to light the need to fix our broken VAMC issues STAT! Thank you.

  9. MY SON DIED MAY 4TH AT THE HANDS OF THE VA IN SEATTLE;
    HE WAS PUT ON NETHADONE IN 1993 AT 140 MG A DAY. HE HAD MANY SERIOUS MEDICAL PROBLEMS, HE ASKED THEM TO PLEASE TAKE HIM OFF AS HE FELT HE DIDN’T HAVE A LIFE. THEY JUST STOPPED IT AFTER YEARS ,COLD. HE HAD DIABETIES AND THEY WOULD MAIL HIS INSULIN IN THE MAIL. THE BOX WAS MARKED 2011 BUT THE INSULINE WAS MARKED 2007 AND 2005 NOT REALIZING THE ERROR HE BECAME IMPOSSIBLE TO TALK TO AND HE BECAME SUICIDAL
    i STILL HAVE THE BOX FROM UPS MARKED 2011 AND THE INSULE MARKED 2005 AAND 2007. I DISSCUDED THIS WITH THEM FOR HOURS 3 OR 4 PEOPLE .THEY SENT ME A SYMPATHY CARD , I TALKED TO AN ATTORNEY I DIDN’T DICUSS ANY MONITARY GAIN JUST WANTED EVERY ONE TO KNOW HOW DANGEROUS THAY ARE. ALL THEY HAD TO SAY WAS SORRY. I TRIED TO POST ROSTERS OF THE MEMORIAL
    AND THEY WOULDN’T ALLOW THAT BUT WE WERE ABLE TO PASS OUT A FEW. METHADONE IS WORSE THAN HAROINE
    WOULD LOVE TO GO BEFORE SOMEONE THAT WOULD LISTEN THAT WOULD LOOK INTO THIS!!!.

  10. The Augusta VAMC’s need a serious review. with so called way that I being the wife of a veteran, have notice repeated times. they treat veterans as if it is privledge to to there jobs, and to what every a veterans may need to have addressed. and the same goes to the spouse’s of veterans. if it was for our american veterans fighting for our country with there lives. they would not have a job in the first place. they try to the least as much work as possible. and want to sit around and get paid to do nothing. they give there spouse’s and the veterans the run around. seent them on a wild goose chase. and expect veterans to go out of there way for them. this is just the start of things. the attitudes are unbelievable. and they wonder why people give them an attitude back. me and my husband have nothing good to say about they way that these facitities are being runned. they cause more problem’s then they go out of there way to help. i recently went to the VA in Charleston, SC with my husband to one of his doctor appt’s. and the differnce in the way they run that hospital, is 100% respected by me and my husband. on the other hand the VA’s in Augusta, GA. serious need help. they are seriously unoraganized, and the list goes on. if this is what congress calls there self’s doing all they can due for the american veteran. they need to be ashambed of them self’s. this is really not all that has happen to me and my husband at the Augusta, GA Va Facilities.

  11. Well I cannot complain where else can you go and get free medical care. I spent 20 years in the military and realize no place is perfect especially when I am not paying, what is the alternative pay the outrageous cost at a civilian hospital? Or go into the street and beg, no I’ll put up with a little grief to be seen by a doctor at no cost and get treated. I cannot bad mouth a Government organization that I can go to and get free medical attention, the alternate is?????????

  12. Someone needs to check the healthcare in Florida especially the VA.
    They are unbelievable iincapable to care for our nations veterans. The private sector is no better..

  13. Peter O commented that, “Well I cannot complain where else can you go and get free medical care.”

    That is such silliness that for a moment I thought not to comment on the ignorance that type of view is derived from. Mr. O needs some adjustment in his attitude and facts if he thinks that combat disabled, quadriplegic veterans are receiving “free” medical care. They are victims of both war and of the atrocious conditions that exist at many VA facilities. Mr. O needs to be educated to understand that losing one’s limbs, mind, or soul is not free.

    Further, in all the debate about healthcare in this county, not once is it ever mentioned that those who fought and paid so much for the freedom of others to choose providers are themselves those who have NO freedom to choose. They are not insurable and are tethered to a healthcare system that at times is as lame as it gets. Those who served with honor, courage and conviction and were grievously damaged cannot opt out, choose a different provider, seek alternative care settings; and, VA, with its huge lobby in congress, does all it can to insure that not one of those who they victimize is ever allowed to escape the clutches of the system.

    Mr. O needs some education on the system as it exists for those who daily pay the price for their service, and if he is by choice in the VA system, then right on, he can whine that others such as himself should not complain; but his case is not my case or that of tens of thousands of others who were forced by their injuries into the ONLY system that they could get help in. They had NO options at all and THEY DESERVE BETTER then they get in many VA facilities! Perhaps Mr. O should consider vacating the system so as to allow better case management for those who cannot by dint of their injuries do the same. Maybe, Mr. O should, if he really is retired, use his TriCare and pay the few dollars in co-pay so as to allow better treatment of other veterans who do not have such privileges. Perhaps Mr. O should see himself as part of the problem and provide part of the solution to the overcrowding in VA hospitals.

    But above all, perhaps Mr. O should keep quiet with his opinion that VA care is “free” for that sort of mindset is what drives politicians to underfund the system that his is taking his share of.

    Nuff said!

  14. I am an Air Force retired 79 year old Vet. Since I turned 65 years old, I have been on Medicare with Tricare for Life as my supplemental coverage. My only VA experience was to get hearing aids which Medicare does not cover. My question is this. Why do so many vets that are over 65 and could use Medicare still insist on going to a VA hospital or clinic? The retired military vet over 65 would have full coverage under Medicare and Tricare for Life. The vet over 65 that is not retired from the military would still have Medicare for 80% of all medical needs and would need Supplemental coverage for the remaining 20%. I believe that we could reduce the number of vets using VA services if we could just help some with their costs of the supplemental coverage.

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