Hospital Administrators Deserve Discipline: VA Board

VA Administration board recommends punishment for lack of oversight

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    A Veterans Administration board recommended that two Miami VA hospital officials be disciplined for failing to promptly inform 79 local veterans that they may be infected with hepatitis or HIV after undergoing colonoscopies with contaminated equipment, reports the Miami Herald.

    Hospital director Mary Berrocal and former chief of staff Dr. John Vara were cited for lack of oversight according to a report completed in September 2010, but just obtained by the Herald through a public records request.

    The VA sent letters to more than 3,000 veterans who had colonoscopies at the Miami VA hospital informing them that improperly cleaned equipment might have exposed them to hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV. Similar problems arose at VA hospitals in Tennessee and Georgia with more than 11,000 veterans potentially exposed to the unsanitary equipment.

    The 74 patients should have been included when about 2,400 former Miami VA patients were notified in March 2009 to get tests for HIV, hepatitis and other infections.

    At least two Miami patients have already been reported to have contracted HIV after having a colonoscopy at the Miami VA hospital.

    While the names of responsible parties are blacked out on the report, the wording makes it clear the board finds Berrocal and Vara are among those held responsible, according to the Miami Herald.

    Records show that among the patients at the three hospitals who heeded VA warnings to get follow-up blood checks, eight tested positive for HIV. Twelve former patients have tested positive for hepatitis B and 37 have tested positive for hepatitis C.

    Juan Rivera of North Miami was the first to file a lawsuit against the government after he claims he contracted HIV after a colonoscopy. The VA claims there is no way to know if patients actually received diseases from the contaminated equipment. Lawyers anticipate many lawsuits to come as 11,000 veterans in three different states are likely susceptible to infection.