Veterans Treated at Missouri VA Caught in HIV Scare

Another VA hospital is being blasted over <"">shoddy infection control practices. This time, the facility is located in Missouri, said CNN.

It seems that the John Cochran VA Medical Center in St. Louis might have exposed over 1,800 veterans to serious diseases such as hepatitis and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus that causes AIDS, said CNN. The center has since sent letters to 1,812 veterans advising them that they could have been exposed to and contracted hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV following dental work received at the center, said Representative Russ Carnahan (Democrat-Missouri), wrote CNN.

Earlier this week Representative Carnahan asked for an investigation and wrote to President Obama, said CNN. “This is absolutely unacceptable…. No veteran who has served and risked their life for this great nation should have to worry about their personal safety when receiving much needed healthcare services from a Veterans Administration hospital,” said Representative Carnahan, quoted CNN.

The problem originated from—said the hospital speaking to KSDK, a CNN affiliate—a failure to appropriately sterilize dental instruments. Apparently, some of the dental technicians hand washed dental tools prior to placing them in cleaning machines. According to established protocols, said Dr. Gina Michael, the association chief of staff at the hospital, the instruments are to go directly in the cleaning machines, said CNN.

The change in practice was not a one-time event and apparently began in February of last year and continued until this March, the hospital told KSDK. In response, the center created a special clinic and education centers to assist those patients who might have become infected. But this is not enough, said Carnahan, who called for disciplinary actions, said CNN. “I can only imagine the horror and anger our veterans must be feeling after receiving this letter,” Carnahan said. “They have every right to be angry. So am I,” quoted CNN.

Meanwhile, last June, the prostate brachytherapy program at Philadelphia’s VA Medical Center was shut down after scores of veterans were found to have received incorrect radiation doses over a six-year period. In response, the Center was assessed a $227,500 fine by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the second largest ever levied against a medical facility by the NRC. At last count, 97 veterans received incorrect radiation doses.

We have also written about VA centers in three cities accused of reusing colonoscopy and endoscopy equipment without proper sanitation; dozens have since tested positive for blood borne pathogens. The VA also sent erroneous letters to veterans with potential neurological diagnoses, but who do not have ALS—Lou Gehrig’s disease—telling them they were diagnosed with the debilitating, deadly disease. Hundreds of veterans received the distressing letters.

The Washington Times previously reported that the VA Department’s agency chief Eric Shinseki acknowledged, at a Congressional panel, that the Department made serious safety errors at some of its centers and was lax in conducting necessary educational and monetary services to thousands of veterans. The veterans were deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and reported suffering from symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

CNN also noted that in June, the Palomar Hospital in San Diego, California, wrote to 3,400 patients who underwent procedures, such as colonoscopies, advising them that they could have been exposed to infection from the use and reuse of medical items during the procedures.

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