Cochran VAMC
11:58 am
Thu March 10, 2011

Cochran resumes surgeries

Updated 3:40 p.m. with a statement from Sen. McCaskill, additional information from the VA:

Sen. Claire McCaskill echoed Cong. Carnahan's sentiment in her statement:

“While I’m pleased this situation was quickly identified and properly resolved before any veterans were harmed, it’s a situation that cannot happen again. Our veterans deserve the best treatment possible. My primary focus is, and always has been, on the direct input from our veterans as they seek the care they need. With their honest feedback, we can work with the VA to make the necessary improvements to give them the quality of care they deserve."

Updated 2:30 p.m. with statement from Congressman Carnahan:

Democrat Russ Carnahan, who's led the effort to look into quality issued at Cochran, issued the following statement about the resumption of surgeries at the hospital:

"I sincerely hope this is a step forward in the effort to make excellence the standard of care at Cochran. As the reports released this week by the Inspector General indicate, the problems at this facility have been chronic and persistent. There is a reason why has received the lowest patient satisfaction scores in the country, and I will not rest in my efforts to turn that around.

Updated 2 p.m. with more information for the VA:

The John Cochran VAMC in north St. Louis has announced that it will resume surgeries, more than a month after halting all procedures over concerns about the cleanliness of surgical instruments.

In an e-mail, hospital administrators say "we would not be moving forward unless we were absolutely certain our Veterans were receiving the best conditions for the surgeries they need."

Patients who needed emergency surgery during the closure were sent to other hospitals. A Cochran spokeswoman says the hospital is still compiling how many people received care elsewhere and how much it will cost. She says veterans who were referred to other hospitals should not have to pay anything. She says the hospital is also working to prioritize delayed surgeries.

Administrators say they brought in VA experts, private vendors, and outside consultants to examine every step in the sterilization process. Though the reviews never found an exact source, the hospital says it tested the process and replaced or refurbished instruments.

This is not the first time Cochran came under scrutiny for problems with its sterilization procedures. In June 2010, it had to notify nearly 1,800 patients at its dental clinic that they were at risk of contracting several blood-borne illnesses because of improper sterilization techniques. The problems were discovered during a routine inspection, and a federal report released yesterday found that the problems had not been fixed by a follow-up inspection several months later.

On Tuesday, the hospital awarded the contract to rebuild its sterilization area. The $6.8 million project, scheduled to be completed in July 2012, "should limit future chances for recurrences of these issues."