NOTE: The following letter was sent to me by Dr. WC Douglas. I was so outraged after reading it, I decided to post it to my blog.
I hope you're ready to be enraged. Because this next story will surely get you fired up. It sure lit my fire. Reports have surfaced that four armed services veterans have tested positive for HIV, and 26 tested positive for hepatitis after they were treated with unsterile medical equipment at Veterans Administration (VA) hospitals.
It gets worse: as many as 11,000 men who served in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines were exposed to these potentially deadly infections because of the shocking conditions at three VA facilities in the southeast.
What's more, it seems the feds are actually doing their best to hold back critical details from those who've been exposed. Other than notifying the thousands of veterans that they needed to get blood tests to screen for these infections, there's been little other information from the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA).
Apparently, poorly sterilized endoscopes are at fault for the spread of the infections. The endoscope is used in a variety of procedures, and is inserted in every conceivable orifice of the human body. So it doesn't take much imagination to figure out that an unclean endoscope could transfer bacteria from one person to another.
This is one of the most shocking and disgusting incidences of hospital oversight I've ever heard. This kind of flagrant disregard for the most basic principles of medical practice would be bad enough in a regular hospital. But for this to have occurred at THREE government facilities specifically dedicated to treating the men and women who've sacrificed so much of their lives for our country... it's beyond nauseating.
The results of this large-scale case of criminal negligence are tragic. One 60-year-old Navy veteran who had undergone a colonoscopy at a VA hospital was notified -- by phone -- that he had tested positive for HIV. "I screamed out loud 'No,'" he said. "You think your whole world is going to end."
I'm a Navy veteran myself, so this man's story hit close to home.
Unfortunately, this isn't the first incidence of its kind. Not long ago, I wrote to you about a Las Vegas health clinic that exposed a whopping 40,000 patients to hepatitis and HIV because they were re-using old syringes. That led to the largest public health notification in history. While this VA scandal isn't quite the same (at least they weren't re-using needles), the results are just as bad.
Amazingly, the VA has acknowledged that they've had a long-running problem with endoscopic equipment, but it wasn't until recently it was found that the VA hospital in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, was ignoring the equipment cleaning methods recommended by the makers of the endoscopes. The VA facility in Augusta, Georgia, was found to have the same problems.
But since then -- though there's been safety checks run on VA-used endoscopes all over the country -- the DVA has kept mum on further information. There's even been some backpedaling by DVA spokeswoman Katie Roberts, who claimed that the spread of HIV had the VA facilities had "no connection whatsoever" to the spread of the infections. Who is she kidding?
And the scariest part of all? As we all stare down the barrel of government-run healthcare, this type of thing is only going to get worse. If the staff of a VA hospital can't be bothered to keep their endoscopes properly clean as they care for the people to whom this country owes so much, then what kind of shortcuts will be taken at run-of-the-mill government hospitals?
It's stories like this that make me glad I live in Italy -- where the health care is excellent and basically free - even to immigrants like me. Something to definitely consider when you are thinking about retiring.
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