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Congressional committee holds hearing in St. Louis on VA hospital

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(UPI Photo)
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By Adam Allington, St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis, MO – A congressional committee held a field hearing in St. Louis on Tuesday to investigate faulty sterilization procedures at the John Cochran VA Hospital.

Last month the hospital sent letters out informing dental patients of possible exposure to Hepatitis B, C and HIV.

The revelation comes on top of a 2008 investigation into unsterile equipment at VA Centers in George, Florida and Tennessee.

Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs Bob Filner derided VA Undersecretary Robert Petzel for taking over 2 months to notify patients of possible exposure.

"You just said that we responded as rapidly as we can'," said Filner. "You just heard 2.5 hours of testimony where every one of us said it wasn't fast enough. You act as if we didn't say a word here."

"I absolutely agree with you Mr. Chairman, we did not respond quickly enough," replied Petzel.

The committee also heard testimony from John Cochran vets. Terri Odom is a veteran of both the Army and Navy. She testified that she's put her life on hold while waiting for the results of follow up blood tests like other veterans present, she also complained of a lack of information from the VA.

"The information number that was attached to the certified letter that I did receive, the people answering the phone were rude, knew nothing more than I knew, and I realized that they were thrown together at the last minute," said Odom.

Undersecretary Petzel assured the committee that organization is taking the investigation at John Cochran seriously. Several congressmen noted however, that they'd heard similar claims from the VA before.

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