Inspections reveal unmet safety standards at Veterans Affairs clinics - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Inspections reveal unmet safety standards at Veterans Affairs clinics

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IOWA CITY (KWWL) - Questions are being raised about the safety of Veterans Affairs clinics, after a report released Monday by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

It says many V.A. clinics have not been following standard procedures for colonoscopies and endoscopies. The V.A Office of the Inspector General says thousands of veterans may have been exposed to infectious diseases, including HIV, as a result.

Lawmakers blasted the department Monday for the failures. "Going in for a routine colonoscopy and being contacted later that you are HIV positive...is not just an adverse event, that is absolutely catastrophic," said Representative Tim Walz of Florida.

We confirmed that an unannounced inspection did take place at the Veterans Affairs center in Iowa City. We were unable to find out how that clinic specifially fared in their inspection, but were able to examine the overall results of the investigation.

The report shows diagrams and pictures of equipment used for colonoscopies and endoscopies of the ears, nose and throat, and proper ways to sterilize them. According to the report, a number of V.A. clinics have not been meeting standards of training and safety when using that equipment.

Iowa City's V.A. clinic is marked on a map in the report, as a facility that performs both colonoscopies and ENT endoscopies. It was one of 42 facilities chosen for unannounced inspections, which revealed that fewer than half of those facilities had the proper training and guidelines in place for the procedures. The V.A. Office of the Inspector General says "a failure of medical facilities to comply on such a large scale" may point to defects in their organizational structure.

We heard back from the V.A. Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs Monday afternoon. Secretary Shinseki said this in a written release:

"My number one priority is the well-being of our Nation's Veterans, and achieving the highest standard for safety is non-negotiable.   It is unacceptable that any of our Veterans may have been exposed to harm as a result of an endoscopic procedure. When we discovered this problem, stemming back to 2003, I initiated an internal, national review process to evaluate the standard of health care for our Veterans.  I also directed the Inspector General to identify the depth of the problem and issue a report.  I was deeply troubled to see the Inspector General's conclusion that VA directives were not being followed. We are taking appropriate disciplinary actions and implementing a new policy requiring each director to verify in writing compliance with VA standing operating procedures.   Our Department will use the knowledge gained from these events to further improve our quality and safety standards for Veterans."

The V.A. is now taking disciplinary and corrective actions. One V.A. spokesperson also told us qualified supervisors have been training V.A. clinicians to correctly use endoscopic equipment, and that more unannounced inspections will take place over the next two years.

Online Reporter - Brady Smith

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