VA doc: Other possible equipment errors reported

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – Federal officials have been warning thousands of former patients they might have been exposed to infection at three Veterans Affairs facilities, yet other VA patients are not being warned about less serious mistakes with the same equipment at more than a dozen other VA centers.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs‘ chief patient safety officer declined to identify those facilities. Dr. Jim Bagian (Bay-gin) said those instances did not involve an infection risk.  More than 10,400 former patients have been getting follow-up blood tests because of VA mistakes with equipment used in colonoscopies at Murfreesboro, Tenn., and Miami and at the agency’s Augusta, Ga., ear, nose and throat clinic. A report Friday shows 7,615 of those veterans have been notified of test results.

The report shows that as of Monday, five former patients at the three hospitals had tested positive for HIV and 34 had tested positive for hepatitis although it’s not clear if the infections came from VA treatment.  Bagian told The Associated Press that during nationwide safety review discussions, more than a dozen other facilities said “We are not doing this exactly right.” He said those reports did not merit follow-up blood tests.

“We looked at every one of those,” he said. Bagian declined to give details on those problems but said there was no reason to involve patients.  Bagian described the Murfreesboro, Miami and Augusta facilities as the only ones with “any kind of appreciable risk” of exposing patients to infections.  Bagian said expanding the follow-up blood tests to other locations would cause unnecessary patient “anxiety.” He said the VA’s’ main concern is the health of affected veterans.

The follow-up blood tests are continuing and the agency has repeatedly said the positive tests for HIV and hepatitis may not have any connection to the VA wrongly rigging equipment or failing to properly clean it between patients.  The U.S. House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs has tentatively set a June hearing for the VA inspector general to report on a review of the mistakes. U.S. Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, the ranking Republican on the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, has requested an oversight hearing.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090516/ap_on_re_us/us_veterans_colonoscopies

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