© 2022 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Carnahan looks for information from vets on problems at John Cochran VAMC

(photo by Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio)
Cong. Russ Carnahan (center rear) listens as veterans describe their concerns with the John Cochran veteran's hospital in St. Louis

By Rachel Lippmann, St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis – Congressman Russ Carnahan says the Veteran's Administration has improved its response to the problems with sterilization of dental equipment at the John Cochran veteran's hospital in St. Louis.

The Democrat toured the facility Thursday before meeting with veterans. About 1800 patients of Cochran's dental clinic were put at a slight risk of contracting hepatitis B and C and HIV because the clinic did not properly follow the Veterans Administration's sterilization procedures.

When the problems were first reported, Carnahan said, he had a tough time getting answers. But officials with the VA and staff at Cochran have become more responsive.

"I think there's a recognition that they not only have to take care of these veterans impacted and answer their questions, but to the broader question of really gaining the confidence back of veterans and the government, they're going to have to have a transparent process," he said.

Carnahan used the tour and the town hall meeting with veterans afterward to gather information he can use at a field hearing of the U.S. House Committee on Veterans Affairs, which will meet in St. Louis next Tuesday. He still wants to know why the dental clinic did not exactly follow the VA's procedures, and why it took the VA so long to notify veterans they were at risk.

Richard Herbel, a retired Navy veteran, received a letter saying he was at risk and should get tested. He praised the V-A for the thorough way it responded.

"This incident has me concerned, I won't kid you about that, but not so much that I'm going to go off the deep end by any means," said Herbel, who has used the VA hospitals in Kansas City and St. Louis since 1995. "I realize that the chances of having something from this are very slim, but I'd like to get the results back as soon as possible."


Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.