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Thousands of veterans could have been exposed to HIV at Missouri VA hospital

If you think government run health care is higher quality or more equitable than privately run health care, think again. The Department of Veterans Affairs administers a health care system for our military veterans that is run and paid for by the US government. Unfortunately, it has become quite well known that it's an inferior system to the privately run health care system the vast majority of the American people enjoy. However, I don't think we understood just how inferior:

More than 1,800 veterans may have been exposed to several potentially deadly viruses including HIV after they received dental work at a St. Louis-area VA hospital.

On Tuesday, The John Cochran Division of the St. Louis Veterans Affairs Medical Center began sending out letters to 1,812 veterans who were treated at the facility from February 2009 to March 2010.

According to a statement from the VA, the dental equipment was sterilized - but it was "not sterilized to the exact specifications of the manufacturers guidelines."

Although the VA concluded that the risk of "infection was extremely low," the agency decided it was still necessary to disclose the error to patients who were treated at the medical center during that 13-month period. They are now offering free blood tests to screen for HIV as well as hepatitis B and C.

Cleaning and sterilizing medical instruments is one of the most basic parts of medical care, yet this VA hospital in St. Louis botched it. And it's not the first time a VA hospital has had issues with safety and quality, as this article points out:

This is not the first time a VA hospital has come under fire for medical negligence.

In November 2009, serious safety issues continued to plague a southern Illinois Veterans Affairs hospital even after major surgeries were suspended because of a spike in patient deaths.

According to a federal report, surgeons at the VA medical center in Marion, Ill., performed procedures without proper authorization, patient deaths were not assessed adequately and miscommunication between staff members persisted.

The hospital had been under intense scrutiny since 2007 when a former surgeon resigned three days after a patient bled to death following gall bladder surgery. All inpatient surgeries were suspended within a month.

In August 2009, it was uncovered that six more cancer patients were being given incorrect radiation doses at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Philadelphia, bringing the total to 98 veterans who were given the wrong treatment over a six-year period.

Our veterans risked everything to protect our nation and our freedoms and this is the best we can do for their health care?

As bad as this sounds, though, it's run of the mill for government run health care systems, and it will eventually be our future if ObamaCare is implemented.


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Comments (7)

Having a separate Veterans'... (Below threshold)
Jim Addison:

Having a separate Veterans' hospital system may have made sense in WWII, with a high number of casualties coming home with injuries fitting within a range of trauma, but it was never going to be a cost-effective alternative if the quality of care was maintained. The emphasis on quality was there for years - until the costs mounted ever more quickly, exposing the fact that a parallel system to treat veterans for non-service-related ailments was very inefficient.

Unfortunately, instead of abandoning the idea and just giving vets vouchers for treatment at any hospital of their choice (even with many who chose the most expensive in their area, paying the bills is cheaper than maintaining a separate system, even after cost squeezes render it substandard in many ways), politicians played the budget game of death by a thousand cuts (or more accurately, refusing to spend the money to maintain the system as state-of-the-medical-art).

Vouchers would give veterans more choice and better care at less cost to Uncle Sam.

Jim A: You mean vouchers l... (Below threshold)
epador:

Jim A: You mean vouchers like Medicaid and Medicare, or TriCare for Life? The insurance programs physicians just are fighting desperately to get more patients thusly insured?

RIGHT.

Not that I am a great fan of the VA system. It ought to be dissolved as currently administered. But there are not many places in the civilian medical system that are attuned to the occupational medical aspects of military service.

The news article is mislead... (Below threshold)
Montag:

The news article is misleading at best. Especially the title.

As reported in the media, the "not sterilized to the exact specifications of the manufacturers guidelines" line is referring to the technicians having mechanically debrided the instruments before placing them in the ultrasonic and then putting them in the autoclave.

There is no charge that these instruments were not placed in the autoclave (which sterilizes them). The charge is that they were not cleaned "properly" because they were mechanically debrided. While that might violate some hospital guideline (manufacturer recommendation, internal hospital policy, federal hospital mandate), I can state with 100% certainty that there is zero chance anybody was exposed to any type of contagious disease (Hep B, C, HIV, etc) by that added step. Well, from a patients point of view that is (those doing the cleaning are still at risk if they cut/poke themselves with an instrument that hasnt been cleaned yet).

The reason mechanical debridement is important is because the Ultrasonic doesnt always remove all the debris (although, in theory it does). You do not want debris to remain on an instrument and then get autoclaved. Now the autoclave will kill anything living, but that debris can get "cooked" onto the instruments. While there is zero danger of transmitting a disease in this way, that "cooked" debris from the previous patient can dislodge from the instrument during a procedure and now you have just introduced a foreign body into a patient and you could have an increased chance for a post operative infection/complication.


I would assume every dental office in the entire country routinely mechanically debrides Oral Surgery instruments before placing them in the Ultrasonic (and then placing them in the Autoclave to sterilize them). I would worry if they didnt do this (not if they did as this news article implies).

As for the other charges? Cant speak for those except to say that there really isnt anything the Government can do that suprises me anymore.


= Barry and the Golf! Excus... (Below threshold)
914:

= Barry and the Golf! Excuse Me, Barry and the gulf.


nuff said'

Careful Montag.....you are ... (Below threshold)
Jeff:

Careful Montag.....you are making way too much sense. There has got to be some reason for me to hate Obama and all democrats because these surgical instruments were mechanically debrided.

Signs sign everywher... (Below threshold)
914:


Signs sign everywhere a sign. Barrold where's your white flag?

I forgive your teleprompted elastiscity and frequent lip movements? But God awful amighty!! Get a grip..

It's really sad to see thin... (Below threshold)

It's really sad to see things like this happening and it makes it even worst to know that it actually happened in a government hospital. Don't they have regular audit checks on all these procedures to ensure patient's saftey?




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