John Cochran VA Medical Center

John A Cochran hospital
Bill Greenblatt | UPI | File photo

It has been two years since the Department of Veterans Affairs Health Care System in St. Louis has had a permanent director. In that time, at least seven acting directors have filled the top spot on short-term rotations of about 120 days, according to Marcena Gunter, the public affairs manager with the VA in St. Louis.

That, combined with a recent report from the Department’s Inspector General’s Office identifying 45 problems at the facility including, expired medications, unsanitary conditions in patient care areas and improper storage of oxygen tanks and other supplies, has prompted both of Missouri’s U.S. senators to urge VA Secretary Robert McDonald, to move quickly in hiring a new director.

(via Flickr/Indofunk Satish)

New report: "vast improvements" at John Cochran VA Medical Center

A new government report says the John Cochran VA Medical Center in St. Louis has made "vast improvements" after an earlier report noted problems.

Updated 8:50 am Tuesday with statement from Sen. Blunt.

The US Veterans Administrations Inspector General has issued a report following complaints that a nurse did not act appropriately when treating two patients receiving hemodialysis treatment at the John Cochran VA Medical Center.  

The nurse  did not report changes in one of the patient’s condition, and the 57-year-old man died the next day, according to the report.  

(via Flickr/IndofunkSatish)

Citizen's committee wants to know what public wants in transportation

A series of statewide meetings designed to take the pulse of transit needs in Missouri kicks off in Chesterfield later today.

House Speaker Steven Tilley put together the Blue Ribbon Citizens Committee on Missouri Transportation Needs in early March. Tilley said in a statement that he wants to "start a conversation" to ensure that Missouri’s transit system fosters economic growth. Members include transportation, political, business and union leaders.

The John Cochran Veterans Affairs Medical Center in St. Louis got bipartisan praise on Wednesday for addressing customer service and equipment sterilization issues that have plagued it for nearly two years.

Here's a brief recap of those problems:

(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

It's been a bad year for the John Cochran Veterans Administration Medical Center in St. Louis.

(Bill Raack/St. Louis Public Radio)

A new survey released today finds that most area veterans are happy with the care and service they get from local VA medical facilities.

U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) initiated the survey following problems at the John Cochran VA center last summer. At a press conference at the Soldiers' Memorial Military Museum in downtown St. Louis, McCaskill said most of the 185 veterans surveyed had positive things to say about the local VA hospitals but there’s room for improvement.

John A Cochran hospital
Bill Greenblatt | UPI | File photo

Representatives Russ Carnahan and William Lacy Clay were among the government officials with sharp criticism today for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Carnahan and Ohio Republican Michael Turner, who represents the Dayton area, pushed for the House Veterans Affairs Commitee hearing to address concerns about the cleanliness of instruments at VA hospitals.

(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

The U.S. House of Representatives has plans to take a look at patient safety lapses at the John Cochran VAMC in north St. Louis.

Rep. Russ Carnahan, a Democrat, pushed for the hearings after two separate problems with sterilization at Cochran.

John Cochran hospital
File photo
  • The John Cochran veteran’s hospital in St. Louis has resumed performing surgeries, more than a month after finding spots of surgical equipment. In a statement, the hospital says outside consultants and experts from the Department of Veterans Affairs could not pinpoint the exact cause of the problem. But officials say they replaced damaged instruments and tested the sterilization process several times. They say they’re confident it’s safe to do surgeries. The hospital has also awarded a $6.8 million dollar contract to build a new sterilization facility. The closure of the surgical wing marked the second time in less than a year that concerns were raised about the cleanliness of medical equipment at Cochran.

  • Legislation making it more difficult for people to win workplace discrimination lawsuits over their dismissals has cleared the state Senate. Missouri law now requires such workers to prove that discrimination was a "contributing" factor in a firing. The Senate bill would require a showing that discrimination was a "motivating" factor. It would also limit the amount of damages that could be awarded in such cases. Senators approved the bill 25-9 on Thursday. It now goes to the House. Proponents say the legislation would bring state law in line with federal policies, possibly making Missouri more appealing to employers. But some critics say the measure is a step backward and could make employers less likely to prevent workplace discrimination.

  • Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed a measure Thursday that requires consumers to pay sales tax on some Internet purchases. The law says sales taxes must be charged when people buy from online retailers through an Illinois-based partner. For instance, an Illinois business might sell products through Online businesses generally don’t charge state sales taxes. Illinois costumers are supposed to pay it directly to the state, but rarely do. Proponents of the measure say it levels the playing field between online businesses and brick-and-mortar stores. Opponents say it will drive business out of Illinois.

(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

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:

(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

Sen. Claire McCaskill says two new federal reports out about health care at the John Cochran veteran's hospital in St. Louis are only part of the picture she wants to get on that facility.

The inspector general on Monday released reports on problems with sterilization at the hospital's dental clinic, and on complaints from employees that they did not have the equipment they needed to do their jobs.

Those reports are important because they outline existing problems, McCaskill says, but the specifics on dealing with those problems have to come from veterans. And that's where her new customer satisfaction survey comes in.

"I really want to see this through the eyes of veterans. I want to know how they feel on an individual basis about the services they’re receiving, and I think that's going to be a very good measure of the work we have to do, she says."

Amid continued sterilization problems at John Cochran Medical Center in St. Louis, Sen. Claire McCaskill announced a new program today to try to improve veterans’ experiences at VA facilities in Missouri.

(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

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 columns at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
St. Louis Public Radio file photo

UPDATED 1:45 p.m. Feb. 8, 2011:

Sens. Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk of Illinois joined Missouri counterparts Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt in a letter Monday seeking the explanation from VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.

The director of John Cochran VA Medical Center in St. Louis says surgeries could resume next week at the facility. The center stopped performing surgeries because of concerns over contamination on some operating-room equipment. 

Meanwhile, congressional reaction to the new problems has been harsh.

(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

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.

(Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio)

Updated at 8:36pm with response from John Cochran officials.

The troubled John Cochran veteran's hospital is under fire again, this time for allegedly failing to keep critical supplies stocked on a timely basis.