WASHINGTON, Feb. 22, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Department of Veterans Affairs acted swiftly and correctly to temporarily suspend surgeries earlier this month at the John Cochran VA Medical Center in St. Louis after stains and water spots were noticed on some medical trays and one surgical instrument, American Legion National Commander Jimmie Foster said today.
"The spots were reported to hospital officials by an employee acting diligently on more stringent self-monitoring policies now in place throughout the VA health-care system," Foster said. "We believe VA is taking very seriously its need to provide the cleanest, safest possible care for our nation's veterans. Self-reporting of any possible threat to that safety – even a questionable water spot – is an important part of VA's commitment to transparency."
The American Legion's System Worth Saving (SWS) Task Force inspected the St. Louis facility Jan. 12-13 and received a report from the hospital's Reusable Medical Equipment Committee, which was formed after some 1,800 veterans in the St. Louis area were called in last year to be tested for possible Hepatitis B, C and HIV exposure from improperly sterilized equipment at the VA dental clinic.
The clinic was closed following the revelation, the chief of dental service was removed from VA employment, and a new state-of-the-art facility with tighter oversight requirements was opened to replace it.
Two weeks after the meeting between the SWS Task Force and the St. Louis VA officials, however, the hospital suspended surgeries after an employee reported the water spots to supervisors. The hospital responded quickly, investigating all equipment in the facility, while making arrangements elsewhere for patients in immediate need of surgery, according to a follow-up report from the health-care system.
The Legion's SWS Task Force has closely scrutinized VA performance on medical equipment sterilization procedures s