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Letter to The Honorable James B. Peake, M.D., Secretary of Veterans Affairs

Letter

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


Letter to The Honorable James B. Peake, M.D., Secretary of Veterans Affairs

Durbin, Obama, Costello Request Meeting with VA Secretary to Discuss Marion VA

Senators ask for explanation of ABI investigation delay

Two weeks after the Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) in Marion, Illinois resumed outpatient surgeries, U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Barack Obama (D-IL) and Representative Jerry Costello (D-IL) today requested a meeting with the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, James Peake, to discuss the progress at the Marion facility. The Senators are asking for an update on the status of a pending Administrative Board of Investigation (ABI) report at the Marion facility to determine which individuals were responsible for allowing a decline in the quality of patient care, including nine deaths as a result of substandard care.

"As surgical procedures restart in Marion, it is important that we continue to work toward returning the VAMC to a full-service medical facility," said Durbin. "This can not be done before the conclusion of the ABI report and without a permanent leadership team in place. I expect the VA to make every effort to finish this report and implement the recommendations as soon as possible."

"Our nation's veterans should expect nothing less than the best care and treatment at veterans' facilities in Illinois and throughout the United States," said Obama. "After last year's unacceptable tragedies at the Marion VA, we must do everything we can to guarantee that the VA maintains the highest standards for its medical personnel and operations. Our veterans must not be put in danger when they are seeking help. I am committed to working with Senator Durbin, my Illinois colleagues, and Secretary Peake to ensure this facility is once again capable of providing our veterans with the quality medical attention they deserve."

"While some progress is being made at Marion, there are still many questions that need to be answered," said Costello. "A full public accounting of the problems at the facility needs to be made by the VA in order to move forward."

In a February 19, 2008 letter, Secretary Peake informed Senator Durbin that the ABI was interviewing VA employees and would complete its final report in April. Despite multiple inquires into the status of the ABI's final report no revised completion date has been offered. On May 8, the VAMC facility in Marion, Illinois resumed low-risk, outpatient surgeries that had been suspended in August 2007 after an apparent spike in post-surgical deaths.

May 27, 2008

The Honorable James B. Peake, M.D.
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20420

Dear Secretary Peake:

We are writing to urge the completion and release of the pending investigation at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) in Marion, Illinois, and request a meeting with you to discuss the situation there.

For many years, veterans from Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky have given high grades to the Marion VAMC. The men and women who work at the hospital today are committed to continuing to provide high quality care for our veterans.

Unfortunately, poor leadership and communication led to serious problems at the facility last year, including surgical malfeasance associated with the deaths of nine veterans. The Veterans Administration (VA) reassigned five individuals, including the VAMC director, chief of staff, and chief of surgery, to non-clinical areas after concerns about the quality of patient care at the facility arose in 2007.

The reassignments became effective as early as September 14 of last year. After a three-month delay, the VA convened an Administrative Board of Investigation (ABI) to determine which individuals at the Marion VAMC were responsible for allowing these serious problems to continue.

In a February 19, 2008 letter, you informed Senator Durbin that the ABI was interviewing VA employees and would complete its final report in April. That date has passed. Our staff has contacted your office on multiple occasions to inquire into the status of the ABI's final report. Your office has been unable to offer a completion date.

We are also concerned that veterans are being asked to travel for surgical operations that once were available to them in Marion. While we are pleased that the VAMC resumed minor outpatient surgeries on May 8, we are looking for more information from you on the plans for returning the Marion VAMC to a full-service medical facility.

We request a meeting with you at your earliest availability to discuss the completion of the ABI report, the progress in hiring permanent hospital leadership, and the return of the high quality of care for which the Marion VAMC has historically been known.

Sincerely,


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