St. Louis Public Radio News
6:02 pm
Thu September 9, 2010

McCaskill says problems remain at John Cochran beyond sterilization

St. Louis, MO – Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill said that more needs to be done to improve the customer experience at St. Louis' John Cochran VA hospital.

McCaskill met with senior staff at John Cochran on Thursday and she said that she's completely reassured that the faulty sterilizations at the hospital's dental clinic discovered earlier this year have been addressed.

Last year the hospital's dental clinic may have exposed some 1,800 veterans to infection through faulty sterilization procedures.

More concerning, according to McCaskill, are low customer satisfaction ratings that rank John Cochran among the lowest in the VA system.

"The thing that was so newsworthy about the dental clinic has exposed for me, the greater problem," McCaskill said, "is that veterans, by-and-large, don't think they're getting the kind of customer service at that facility that they deserve."

McCaskill said that the hospital has been very transparent in dealing with the sterilization issues, and all but three patients have received follow-up testing.

"I'm not saying it wasn't a big deal," McCaskill said. "I'm saying that the problems at John Cochran are more systemic as it relates to service to veterans, than it is the problem in the dental clinic, that's what I'm saying," she said.

The senator said that the VA is taking the complaints seriously and is meeting every morning to address any complaints that come in. Overall, McCaskill said veterans have told her that they're satisfied with the quality of the health care they receive at John Cochran, but her staff will continue to investigate the customer service issue.

McCaskill's staff will collect feedback using a system similar to "secret shoppers," where patients will rate the hospital according to their experiences and report back to the senator's staff.