Saturday, June 03, 2006

09: “BOHICA Alert! The VA Does it Again!”

Now we are getting to know the real VA, the one with overwhelmed and careless staff. Congress expresses its outrage while slicing millions of dollars from their budget. Do not blame the VA for this. Place the blame securely where it belongs: The Congress of the United States.

Here is an article from the Associated Press, complete with mouthings from VA officials trying to downplay the threat. The threat is real. And once again, as it did in the stolen computer data incident, the VA is trying to cover its own butt.

This behavior moves from the top down and is indicative that the VA has been turned into a bureaucracy that functions only to serve itself, and not the Veterans of this nation. Thank you Congress for making the VA into what it is, a non-responsive, overly regulated, dishonestly policied, exclusionary beast from which the Veteran must jump through flaming hoops to get their justly deserved benefits, earned in the service of their nation.

The Article:

Vets Warned of Possible Exposure to Virus
Jun 3, 1:35 AM (ET)

MILWAUKEE (AP) - More than 22,000 veterans who underwent prostate biopsies at veterans' hospitals across the country are being warned that improperly sterilized equipment may have exposed them to deadly viruses.

Officials said Friday it was unlikely someone could get infected by the equipment, and no patient is known to have been sickened.

Still, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs decided to offer free blood tests as a precaution after officials in Maine questioned whether the cleaning procedure was thorough enough, said VA spokesman Jim Benson.

The prostate biopsy equipment includes a probe that, if improperly cleaned, could retain traces of body fluids containing the viruses that cause hepatitis or AIDS.

Since April, the VA has alerted patients of potential inadequacies with the biopsy cleaning procedure at 21 medical centers in 18 states, plus Puerto Rico.

So far, about 7,000 vets contacted the VA after receiving the letter and about 2,000 have been tested, Benson said.

"It's too soon to have any information on their test results because each of the potential diseases we might be worried about require not only initial tests but confirmatory tests as well," Benson said. "Right now our first priority is getting information out to every veteran."

Dennis Maki, an infectious disease expert at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, aid the prostate examination technique involves inserting a stainless steel scope about the diameter of a pencil into the rectum. Then doctors use a hollow needle to draw a sample from the prostate gland.

The standard sterilizing procedure called for the equipment to be flushed with a disinfecting solution, but officials grew concerned that blood and fecal residue might remain unless the tube were physically scrubbed as well.

It's possible but unlikely that someone could get infected that way, said Michael Erdmann, chief of staff of the Milwaukee VA Medical Center.

"We're concerned for the safety of our patients, but really, the odds are really quite low," he said.

The problem wasn't manpower so much as cleaning instructions provided by the manufacturer that didn't specify the need for a brush, Erdmann said.

The equipment was made by B-K Medical Systems in Denmark. Company officials from neither B-K nor its Massachusetts-based parent company, Analogic, immediately returned phone calls by The Associated Press on Friday.

Michael O'Rourke, a spokesman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, said he was satisfied with the VA's response. "I don't know what more they can do," he said.

Peter Gaytan, the director of veterans affairs for the American Legion, said his group is reaching out to veterans to make sure the VA has addressed their concerns.

"What the American Legion wants to make sure is that this mistake isn't the responsibility of overworked VA staff, and if it is, they need to hire more people," he said.
On the Net:
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs:

This is reprehensible on the part of the agency tasked to provide health care for millions of Veterans who served with the knowledge that the VA would be there for them, and discovered too late that was not the case. And such a lukewarm, tepid response by the American Legion shows how much they truely care. On a national level they have become a political entity, not a non-profit lobbying organization demanding aid for the Veterans from a stingy Congress! Veterans, you have been let down by your service organizations.

The VA Medical system has violated the oldest and most primary rule of medicine: “First, do no harm.”


“With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”
-- President Abraham Lincoln

"Without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious."
--President George Washington

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