Cochran VAMC
7:56 am
Fri February 4, 2011

Cochran VA again under fire for sterilization issues

The John Cochran Veterans Affairs Medical Center has canceled all surgeries until further notice after discovering that some surgical equipment may not have been properly sterilized.

In a statement given to several local media outlets, Cochran's medical director, RimaAnne O. Nelson, says a regular inspection found spots on equipment trays and water stains on at least one piece of surgical equipment.

The statement continues:

These concerns were caught before any patients were operated on, and this serves as an example of the medical center's heightened patient precaution systems at work. Medical center leadership has inspected all other surgical materials and has had various service vendors at the facility today inspecting and testing Surgical Processing and Distribution equipment to eliminate any potential problems. VA will work with all affected Veterans to reschedule surgical appointments or arrange for alternate care in any urgent cases."

This is not the first time the hospital has had sterilization issues. Last June, the hospital had to offer 1,800 patients of its dental clinic free testing for hepatitis and HIV after revealing it had not followed proper sterilization procedures on equipment at the clinic. Four veterans tested positive for hepatitis, but it's not clear if those cases are connected to the dental clinic.

Politicians from both sides of the aisle and the river are weighing in. Here's  Democrat Cong. Russ Carnahan's reaction:

"How many times does something have to happen before they fix this facility. Clearly the problems there go well beyond one department.  It's time for a full, top-to-bottom, independent review of the entire facility.  It needs to happen and it needs to happen now. The health and safety of our veterans is too important to wait."

Fellow Democrat Claire McCaskill vows to "fight to hold whoever is responsible accountable. Our veterans deserve nothing but the best."

And Cong. John Shimkus, a Metro East Republican, urges veterans to report any problems at area VA medical centers or clinics:

“I am extremely disappointed in the Department of Veterans Affairs.  This is the second major problem at Cochran, which follows past problems not fully recovered from at the Marion VA. Last year the House Veterans Affairs Committee held a special hearing in St. Louis.  Former Chairman Filner and current Chairman Miller both attended.  Unfortunately, I believe another hearing is not only necessary in St. Louis, but in Washington.

A 2008 report of conditions at the Marion VA found that at least nine people had died because of surgical mistakes and poor care after surgery. A follow-up report found that many of the conditions had not been corrected.