September 19, 2009

VA Reports Improvement In Endoscopic Equipment Usage

Recent inspections have revealed that there have been substantial improvements in the endoscopic procedural issues within Veterans Department medical facilities, which potentially exposed thousands of people to HIV and other infections.

In a new report issued Friday, the VA's inspector general (IG) said that it unexpectedly dropped in on 128 medical facilities, only to find that they were all correctly following procedures. They also found that all but one had properly trained their staff to use the equipment.

This was an incredible improvement over earlier inspections this summer, which shockingly revealed that less than half of the VA facilities were in compliance.

This year, around 10,000 veterans from VA hospitals in Augusta, Georgia, Miami and Murfreesboro, Tennessee, were alerted to the disturbing fact that they could have been exposed to infections during colonoscopies or other endoscopic procedures where the equipment had not been sanitized properly.

Afterward, over 50 people tested positive for infections, including at least eight who tested positive for HIV.

Even though the VA says it is impossible to know where the infections came from, they are still offering free medical treatment to all who were affected.

The agency's under secretary for health Gerald M. Cross, made a statement saying that the IG's findings prove that the VA quality assurance programs "identified a risk and successfully corrected that risk on a national scale."

According to the VA, it took more than 40 disciplinary actions in order to resolve this specific issue.

The only hospital that failed to show documentation that its staff had been properly trained to used the devices was the White River Junction VA Medical Center in Vermont, said the IG.

He went on to say that even with this facility, a VA official insisted that the finding was wrong and based on a typographical error in the hospital's paperwork that included the word "cystoscope" rather than the correct "colonoscope."


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