Cochran VAMC
12:02 pm
Thu February 10, 2011

Rep. Carnahan, VA chief Shinseki meet over hospital concerns

Updated 1:58 p.m. Feb. 10, 2011 with comment from Rep. Carnahan

St. Louis Congressman Russ Carnahan says he remains frustrated by the systemic problems and slow pace of improvements at the Cochran VA Medical Center in St. Louis.

The Democrat met Thursday with Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki and asked for a top-to-bottom review of the St. Louis hospital. Shinseki, in a statement, called the meeting "productive." He called the sterilization problem at Cochran an "isolated" incident, but also that he is concerned that the VA continues to downplay the issue.

"We're pleased that this incident was caught, from what we're told, before any of these instruments were used," Carnahan said,  "In that sense, this is a very different incident than the one that happened in the dental clinic. But the same kinds of themes are there. And frankly, that's not a whole lot of comfort."

Surgeries at Cochran have been on hold since Feb. 2 after potentially contaminated surgical equipment was discovered. And last year, faulty sterilization at the center's dental clinic raised concerns that 1,812 veterans were potentially exposed to hepatitis and HIV.

"For too long the problems that have existed at Cochran have existed in the shadows," Carnahan said, "They have gotten little or short attention. And things have, too often, really allowed mediocrity there to thrive. That's not good enough."

Carnahan called the problems at the medical center the most maddening incidents during his tenure in public office.

A letter was also sent to VA Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R, Florida) and Ranking Member Bob Filner (D, California) from the bipartisan St. Louis area  Congressional delegation regarding Cochran. You can read the letter in full below:

Cochran VA Chair Letter 2-10-11