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St. Petersburg, Florida

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C. Todd Alley
C. Todd Alley
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What the heck is going on in VA Hospitals?

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Two shocking news reports highlight the growing concern about VA hospital negligence and the quality of care provided to our soldiers stateside.

In the first article, reports from the New York Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer last month indicated that during a six-year period at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Philadelphia, approximately 92 of 116 Veterans were given incorrect radiation doses in a common surgical procedure to treat prostate cancer called brachytherapy. During this procedure, radioactive seeds are implanted surgically to kill cancer cells in the prostate. The procedure is considered relatively simple, yet investigators found that most veterans got significantly less than the prescribed dose while others received excessive radiation to nearby tissue and organs. Dale Warman of the Philadelphia VA Medical Center stated that all of the patients affected were notified and received follow up care rectifying the mistakes. Four of those patients have since died, although Mr. Warman indicated to reporters that none of the deaths were related to the botched procedures.

In an even more startling report, last month a congressional panel questioned officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs after 10,000 veterans were exposed to HIV and other infectious diseases from contaminated colonoscopy equipment at three Southeast VA hospitals (Miami, FL, Murfreesboro, Tenn., and Augusta, Ga). Some former VA patients had colonoscopies performed as long ago as 2003. Patients are at risk because according to reports, the equipment used may have been improperly operated or cleaned. As of mid-June, the VA’s Inspector General reported that six veterans taking the follow-up blood checks tested positive for HIV, 34 tested positive for hepatitis C and 13 tested positive for hepatitis B. All but 724 affected patients have been notified of test results.

Questions have been raised whether the problem is isolated to only a few VA hospitals, or if it is more widespread. The patients at the VA are current and former soldiers who have protected and served our country. The men and women of the armed forces deserve the highest quality healthcare in America. But unfortunately, these appalling reports shed light on growing concern that they receiving substandard care.