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Thread: VA hospitals may have infected 1800 veterans with HIV

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  1. #1

    Angry VA hospitals may have infected 1800 veterans with HIV

    (CNN) -- A Missouri VA hospital is under fire because it may have exposed more than 1,800 veterans to life-threatening diseases such as hepatitis and HIV.

    John Cochran VA Medical Center in St. Louis has recently mailed letters to 1,812 veterans telling them they could contract hepatitis B, hepatitis C and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) after visiting the medical center for dental work, said Rep. Russ Carnahan. (Source)
    This is beyond careless and inexcusable. Does anybody know what actions a veteran could take against the VA if this happened to them? What kind of compensation can you give someone for accidentally giving them an incurable life-threatening disease?

  2. #2
    Omg!!!

  3. #3
    I don't understand how washing the instruments by hand before putting them
    in a cleaning machine puts people at an elevated risk. Not only that, but HIV
    dies when the infected bodily fluid dries. There may be a bit of sensationalism
    going on in the article.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Buck_Nastier View Post
    I don't understand how washing the instruments by hand before putting them
    in a cleaning machine puts people at an elevated risk. Not only that, but HIV
    dies when the infected bodily fluid dries. There may be a bit of sensationalism
    going on in the article.
    You're right. It doesn't seem to make sense. I'd like to know more details.

  5. #5
    This has happened not only at VA hospitals, but at a number of private hospitals, some of which are quite prestigous. One right across the street from the VA hospital where I work did this same thing, but with colonoscopy scopes being improperly cleaned, putting people at risk primarily for hepatitis and c. diff.

    I don't understand how this could still be happening in the VA. Over the last several years there has been a VERY strict and comprehensive program within the VA to classify and set up very strict programs for cleaning of any RME (reusable medical equipment), including those used for sterile (critical) and non-sterile (non-critical) uses. We had to not only develop detailed procedures for identifying all such equipment, and how it should be cleaned, but also extensive training for staff, and spot check-audits by our internal risk management department and the OIG (Office of the Inspector General). The administration at this specific hospital must be held accountable for totally ignoring multiple VHA directives, inspections, and guidelines related to this, and should suffer the consequences.

    If you acquire a medical problem at a VA hospital that is due to negligence of the staff, there is precedent for this to establish a service connected condition (such as with a botched surgery). In a case such as this, it may require some tort action on the part of the injured patients (in the absence of any legislative mandate), and I certainly hope that those patients involved pursue both legal action and VA claims procedures if they did suffer from this negligence.

    (KLD)

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by SCI-Nurse View Post
    If you acquire a medical problem at a VA hospital that is due to negligence of the staff, there is precedent for this to establish a service connected condition (such as with a botched surgery). In a case such as this, it may require some tort action on the part of the injured patients (in the absence of any legislative mandate), and I certainly hope that those patients involved pursue both legal action and VA claims procedures if they did suffer from this negligence.

    (KLD)
    Yeah, BUT, repercussions in the case of VA negligence is stringently limited in comparison to that of the civilian sector.

  7. #7
    Senior Member skippy13's Avatar
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    I used to work in dental clinics as a dental technician. The instruments they are talking about are the handpieces that the dentist puts the drill bits into. They can retain tiny bits of blood and tissue and are reused from patient to patient FREQUENTLY! The drill handpieces must be properly disassembled to be properly cleaned without ruining the inner workings which can be contaminated.

    This is not the first time this situation has come up in the history of dentistry, and not just at the VA dental centers. You are at risk every time you visit any dentist who uses reusable handpieces, even civilian dentists in the most exclusive practices. And just so you know ALL OF THEM DO.

    There was a time that a patient could purchase their own handpiece to take with them to the dentist for about $100.00, but the furor died down and I don't think you can buy these things anymore.

    I still think it is a good idea to be able to purchase your own dental drill for your exclusive use, after all when you go to a nail salon they require you to have your own files for the same reason.
    Anything worth doing, is worth doing to excess

  8. #8

    VA employee fired after warning management of the problem at St. Louis VA (in 2009)

    Earlene Johnson, 53, of south St. Louis, came forward to say she had warned management at John Cochran of unsanitary cleaning practices she saw while working there. Johnson said she has 30 years of experience with sterilized instruments.

    In an August 2009 e-mail to hospital supervisors, she outlined suggestions that included a "more effective" way of sterilizing instruments.

    "There were procedures that needed to be in place," said Johnson, who said she spent nearly a year at the hospital assembling trays of instruments that had been through the cleaning process.

    "The instruments were coming out bloody — not all of them, but some of them."

    She said she was fired from John Cochran for "unprofessional conduct" and is legally contesting the dismissal.

    "I tried to make improvements, but I got pushed away," she said.
    (more)



    I wonder if this would also happen in the civilian sector... somehow I doubt it.
    .

  9. #9
    That is crazy.

    I don't see how this process could cause hinder the sterilizing process though. We always used a 3 step scrubbing/cleaning then autoclaved surgical instruments. Washing/scrubbing just insures they're further cleaned but they're sterilized once autoclaved, regardless.

  10. #10

    VA dentist welcomes scrutiny

    Friday, July 2, 2010
    ST. LOUIS (AP) — The chief of dental services at the St. Louis VA Medical Center is defending his staff and says he welcomes a Veterans Affairs inquiry into a mistake that might have exposed nearly 2,000 veterans to viruses.

    The VA said yesterday it was placing the dental chief on administrative leave while it investigates the sterilization procedure mistake. The VA said the risk of exposure is very minimal.

    Still, the agency on Monday sent letters to 1,812 veterans who had dental procedures at the St. Louis facility from Feb. 1, 2009, through March 11 of this year, when the problem was uncovered.

    The VA is offering free tests to screen for hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV. Nearly 200 people had signed up for, or already had, testing. No illnesses have been found.

    The VA didn’t name the dental chief, but Danny Turner came forward to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

    Turner told the newspaper in today’s edition that he stands behind his staff and that he blames politics for distorting the situation. "I have a lot of information that proves we were doing things correctly," Turner said.

    The VA warning prompted an outcry from politicians from both Missouri and Illinois — the five VA centers in the St. Louis area serve veterans from both states. "Things are done to get votes, and that’s a shame," Turner, 63, said.

    Turner denied a claim made by a former employee that she saw dental instruments with dried blood even after they had gone through the cleaning process. "Our dental instruments are never that way," he said. "I don’t know what she was talking about."

    VA Undersecretary for Health Robert Petzel said yesterday the problem arose because workers prewashing dental equipment failed to use a detergent before the equipment was sterilized. He said that allowed for a "phenomenally remote" chance that sterilization might not have been effective.
    http://www.columbiatribune.com/news/...omes-scrutiny/

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