Inspector General: Patients in danger at VA hospital

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Conditions at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Washington, D.C. (D.C. VAMC), have been described as “dangerous to patients” in a condemning report by the agency’s chief watchdog.

The facility, which provides medical services to 98,000 veterans, was found to be putting patients at “unnecessary risk” by the VA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) due to staffing problems and inventory mismanagement.

On March 21, the Inspector General’s office reportedly received an anonymous tip about how bad the situation was and sent its “Rapid Response Team” to the hospital on March 29-30 and again on April 4-6.

The inspection uncovered dirty storage areas where sterile supplies were supposed to be kept, expired supplies being used, and borrowing equipment from elsewhere because supplies were not properly stocked.

  • 194 patient safety reports had been filed since January 2014, reporting a lack of available equipment.
  • In March, the facility had to borrow bloodlines from a private hospital for dialysis patients because they ran out.
  • In April, the hospital did not have the appropriate tool needed for prostrate biopsies and had to cancel scheduled biopsies for four patients.
  • The hospital had to borrow bone material for knee replacement surgeries from another facility.
  • In February 2016, a vendor removed a tray used to repair jaw fractures, due to an unpaid invoice.
  • In June 2016, a surgeon used expired equipment during a procedure.
  • Out of 25 sterile storage areas inspected, 18 were found dirty.

In the report, the inspector general said senior management has known about the problems “for some time without effective remediation.”

In response to the report, the VA announced on Wednesday that it is “demoting” Brian Hawkins, who has served as the hospital’s director since 2011.

The VA released the following statement:

“The Department of Veterans Affairs thanks the OIG for its quick work reviewing the D.C. VAMC. The department considers this an urgent patient-safety issue. Effective immediately, the medical center director has been relieved from his position and temporarily assigned to administrative duties.”

H/T: The Hill, USA Today

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