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VA Officials Grilled Over Botched Colonoscopies

June 17, 2009

On Tuesday, Veterans Affairs officials apologized before a House subcommittee looking into the handling of a hepatitis and HIV scare at VA health care centers in Miami, Augusta, Ga., and Murfreesboro, Tenn.

A report finding that fewer than half of VA facilities given a surprise inspection last month had proper infection-control training and guidelines in place for endoscopic procedures will lead to disciplinary action, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki assured lawmakers.

John Daigh, VA's assistant inspector general and the review's leader, told lawmakers the findings "troubled me greatly." "We think there are systemic issues," he said.

The VA has said self-reports from its facilities indicate the mistakes that placed about 10,000 patients at risk for blood-borne infections were limited to the three centers at the center of the investigation. But the inspector general's report on 42 randomly selected VA centers found just 43 percent had standard operating procedures in place for endoscopy equipment and could demonstrate that staff were properly trained for using the devices.

Lawmakers expressed disbelief that VA officials had not immediately tightened procedures after first learning of the problems earlier this year. Shinseki pledged to require center directors to verify in writing that they are complying with guidelines.

Several VA officials with private hospital experience said similar discoveries in the private sector would not have been publicized without specific knowledge that a patient was harmed. Daigh noted his investigators tried unsuccessfully to get information about potential problems from private hospitals.

"If this is happening in the VA, what is happening ... in our greater health system?" asked Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Ind.).

Back to other news for June 2009

Adapted from:
Associated Press
06.16.2009; Ben Evans

This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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