[Vision2020] Veterans

Art Deco deco at moscow.com
Thu Jul 1 10:03:31 PDT 2010

Isn't it wonderful how we treat those that serve and die for our country.  These stories should make recruiting and encouraging military careers so much easier.



VA hospital may have infected 1,800 veterans with HIV
By the CNN Wire Staff
  a.. Missouri VA hospital sends letters to more than 1,800 patients at risk
  b.. Patients may be at risk to contract hepatitis and HIV
  c.. Congressman from Missouri angry and calling for investigation
  d.. Hospital says problem stems from handwashing dental instruments
  a.. Missouri
  b.. Veterans' Affairs
  c.. HIV and AIDS
(CNN) -- A Missouri VA hospital is under fire because it may have exposed more than 1,800 veterans to life-threatening diseases such as hepatitis and HIV.

John Cochran VA Medical Center in St. Louis has recently mailed letters to 1,812 veterans telling them they could contract hepatitis B, hepatitis C and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) after visiting the medical center for dental work, said Rep. Russ Carnahan.

Carnahan said Tuesday he is calling for a investigation into the issue and has sent a letter to President Obama about it.

"This is absolutely unacceptable," said Carnahan, a Democrat from Missouri. "No veteran who has served and risked their life for this great nation should have to worry about their personal safety when receiving much needed healthcare services from a Veterans Administration hospital."

The issue stems from a failure to clean dental instruments properly, the hospital told CNN affiliate KSDK.

KSDK: VA dental patients at risk of infection

Dr. Gina Michael, the association chief of staff at the hospital, told the affiliate that some dental technicians broke protocol by handwashing tools before putting them in cleaning machines.

The instruments were supposed to only be put in the cleaning machines, Michael said.

The handwashing started in February 2009 and went on until March of this year, the hospital told KSDK.

The hospital has set up a special clinic and education centers to help patients who may have been infected. However, Carnahan said he feels more should be done and those responsible should be disciplined.

"I can only imagine the horror and anger our veterans must be feeling after receiving this letter," Carnahan said. "They have every right to be angry. So am I."

This is not the first time this year a hospital has been in hot water for not following proper procedures.

In June, Palomar Hospital in San Diego, California, has sent certified letters to 3,400 patients who underwent colonoscopy and other similar procedures, informing the patients that there may be a potential of infection from items used and reused in the procedures.

Army admits 'unimaginable, unacceptable wrongs' at Arlington Cemetery
By Laurie Ure, CNN Pentagon Producer
  a.. Army secretary says he will do all he can to fix ''unimaginable, unacceptable wrongs"
  b.. He concedes "by placing everyone in charge, no one was in charge
  c.. Investigation revealed that 211 graves at the historic cemetery were misidentified or mislocated
  d.. No one has been fired
Washington (CNN) -- Army Secretary John McHugh told Congress Wednesday that "unimaginable, unacceptable wrongs" had resulted from the mismanagement of Arlington Cemetery, one of the nation's most hallowed burial places for its war dead.

A months-long Army investigation initiated by McHugh revealed that 211 graves at the historic cemetery were misidentified or mislocated.

Conceding that "by placing everyone in charge, no one was in charge," McHugh vowed to do "everything necessary and possible to right these unimaginable, unacceptable wrongs."

The probe exposed a dysfunctional management team with no oversight, missing documents, poor record keeping, and failure to notify next-of-kin about the problems, according to the Inspector General's report.

Rep. Howard McKeon, R-California, the ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, expressed concerns over the cemetery's "nearly complete failure to comply with federal, defense, or Army acquisition regulations," avoiding "basic common sense."

"The evidence provided by the I.G. goes far beyond inadvertent noncompliance by over-worked contracting officers," McKeon said. "I find these practices to be unacceptable."

McHugh, sworn in as Army Secretary in September, said he never imagined facing an issue such as this. He said that the circumstances were allowed to continue due in part to a lack of clear lines of authority.

"I've restructured the administrative processes, and the lines of authority are pretty clear through the executive director, right down to my desk," McHugh said.

He said the solutions include beefing up investment in modern computer technology, and if certain regulations against it are worked out, the possible use of outside help.

McHugh said a number of solutions are currently being considered for correctly identifying the remains in question, including exhuming graves.

He said some of the dead are buried in unique caskets that family members could identify.

Less ideally, the caskets could be opened and any articles and mementos left inside could single out individuals.

As a last resort, McHugh said DNA tests could be conducted on decomposed remains, assuming proper authorization from the families, McHugh said.

McHugh has already created a position to oversee operations at Arlington, and will personally oversee the superintendent position.

In addition to missing burial records and unmarked graves, the investigation discovered that burial urns were put in a spillage pile filled with dirt from shoveled gravesites.

Investigators also said inaccurate burial maps are a "systemic problem."

Surprisingly, no one was fired after the Inspector General's report was made public.

Longtime Arlington Cemetery Superintendent John Metzler, who was already scheduled to retire next month, was reprimanded, and his deputy, Thurman Higginbotham, was placed on administrative leave pending further review.

Army Inspector-General Steven Whitcomb said his review found no evidence of deliberate wrongdoing.

Gina Gray, an Iraq veteran who has brought legal action, said she was fired from her job at Arlington Cemetery after whistleblowing the problems to Congress.

She alleges the cemetery was given millions of dollars to update its record-keeping systems, yet still uses outdated technology.

"I don't know what it is going to take to get them fired over there," Gray said. "We have evidence of unmarked, mismarked graves, mismanagement going decades back."

Asked at Wednesday's hearing about any restitution for Gray, Whitcomb declined to comment, citing ongoing litigation.


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