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Vietnam Veterans of America Calls for Openness and Transparency in Addressing Contaminated Medical Equipment at VAMCs

WASHINGTON, April 23 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The health of patients who received endoscopic procedures at three VA Medical Centers may have been compromised by contaminated medical equipment. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, the number of "potentially affected" patients now totals 10,797, including 6,387 who had colonoscopies at the Murfreesboro, Tennessee, VA Medical Center between April 2003 and December 2008, 3,341 who had colonoscopies at the VAMC in Miami from May 2004 to March 2009, and 1,069 who were treated at the ear, nose, and throat clinic in the Augusta, Georgia, medical center from January 2008 through November 2008.

"VA Secretary Shinseki, in his confirmation statement, promised to transform the Department of Veterans Affairs," noted John Rowan, National President of Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA). "Part of this transformation involves bringing transparency and openness to VA operations and establishing relationships 'based on trust and positive results over a lifetime,' General Shinseki said. With a crisis brewing over the extent of 'improperly reprocessed' endoscopic equipment, this is the first test of how open the Department will be in admitting and addressing potentially life-threatening errors.

"Secretary Shinseki needs to continue to get the facts from his people, and to inform veterans who get their care at the VA medical centers in Murfreesboro, Miami, and Augusta. This effort must involve continual updates on what the VA is learning about the extent of this situation," Rowan said.

According to a VA press release dated April 3rd, 17 veterans had tested positive for hepatitis B, hepatitis C, or the Human Immunodeficiency (HIV) Virus. Eleven of these were tested at the VA's Murfreesboro Medical Center; the other six were tested at the Augusta hospital. That was the last official press release from the VA on the matter, although updates on the VA web site now put the total at 28. This situation has worried thousands of veterans and their families.

"It is imperative that the VA reassure veterans who use its Medical Centers and outpatient clinics that all VA clinicians use universal precautions when handling invasive equipment, and that the VA will be vigilant to ensure that the system will be as good as its clinicians," said Rowan.

SOURCE Vietnam Veterans of America
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