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VA Continues Notification Process for Veterans Affected by Reprocessing Issues

WASHINGTON, April 3 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has announced 3,174 Veterans have already been notified of the results of testing they underwent recently; that testing was conducted because of improperly reprocessed endoscopy equipment that may have been used in their care. These Veterans, in the Tennessee, Georgia and South Florida areas were among 10,555 Veterans sent letters offering free testing.

VA patients, who believe that they may have been exposed to cross contamination, were patients that received endoscopic procedures at the VA's Murfreesboro, Tenn., facility from April 2003 to December 2008 and the VA's Augusta, Ga., hospital from January 2008 to November 2008 and the VA's Miami hospital from May 2004 to March 2009.

As of April 1, 2009, 17 Veterans have tested positive for Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, or the Human Immunodeficiency (HIV) Virus. Five Veterans tested positive for Hepatitis B virus; eleven for Hepatitis C; and one for HIV. Of the positive test results, eleven were tested at VA's Murfreesboro, Tenn., facility, and six were tested at VA's Augusta, Ga., hospital. These results do not indicate that there is any relationship between these patients' conditions and the endoscopy procedures they underwent. However, VA is conducting an epidemiologic investigation to look into the possibility of such a relationship.

While reviews indicate that the transmission of Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C virus as a result of endoscopy procedures is extremely small and that transmission of HIV through endoscopy has never been reported, VA will appropriately counsel and care for these patients, no matter what the source of their infections may be.

"Secretary Shinseki has demanded that all Veterans enrolled with VA get the best health care available anywhere," said Michael J. Kussman, MD, MS, MACP, VA's Under Secretary for Health. "We have an obligation to provide those who have served and sacrificed for our Nation the care they deserve."

VA is continuing the process of testing and counseling Veterans who may be affected by this issue. The Department has added additional personnel at its Murfreesboro, Augusta and Miami hospitals to ensure that affected Veterans receive prompt testing and appropriate counseling. It is attempting to locate individuals whose letters have been returned as undeliverable, and to reach out to homeless Veterans with no known address. Affected Veterans are notified about their test results as soon as their results are verified.

"The VA prides itself on being accountable and we are extremely concerned about this matter and as a result we have initiated an investigation," said Kussman. "Additionally, we are making sure to take corrective measures to ensure Veterans have the information and the care necessary to deal with this unacceptable development."

VA is committed to reducing and preventing inadvertent harm to our patients as a result of their care. The Department is a leader in the health care industry in developing and nurturing a culture of safety at all its facilities. Patient safety managers at all 153 VA hospitals lead VA's 280,000 employees in efforts to reduce and eliminate harm.

VA patients and their families may call 1-877-575-7256, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for additional information.

SOURCE U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
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