Nov 3, 9:47 AM EST–By SOPHIA TAREEN–Associated Press Writer
CHICAGO (AP) — Serious safety issues continued to plague a southern Illinois Veterans Affairs hospital even after major surgeries were suspended two years ago because of a spike in patient deaths, according to a federal report released Monday. 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 Veterans Affairs Department’s inspector general said in the report, which covers the fiscal year that recently ended. The medical center’s “oversight and reporting structure was fragmented and inconsistent, making it difficult to determine the extent of oversight or the corrective actions taken to improve patient care,” the report said. The hospital has 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. The VA found at least nine deaths between October 2006 and March 2007 resulted from substandard care at the hospital, which serves veterans from southern Illinois, southwestern Indiana and western Kentucky. The VA said 10 patients died after receiving questionable care that complicated their health. The hospital still isn’t performing major surgeries, though some outpatient procedures are performed there. Monday’s report, which follows earlier VA investigations with similar findings and lawsuits by patients’ families, drew an angry response from Illinois leaders.