In Meeting with VA Secretary, Illinois Members Urge VA to restore faith in Marion facility
Today, in a meeting with Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), Congressmen Jerry Costello (D-IL) and John Shimkus (R-IL), and representatives from Senator Obama's office, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Dr. James Peake, announced that a report by the Administrative Board of Investigation (ABI) is nearing completion and new leadership will finally be put in place this fall at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Marion, Illinois.
"The events last year at Marion damaged the reputation of a great VA hospital," said Durbin. "What Marion needs now is a competent, professional leadership team in place as soon as possible to restore the confidence of veterans in Illinois. I hope that Secretary Peake will make good on his commitment to visit the facility, meet with the veterans and talk with the staff at Marion who are committed to the highest quality patient care."
"After last year's unacceptable tragedies at the Marion VA, we must do everything we can to guarantee that our veterans in need of medical care are not put in danger," said Obama. "While it is clear Secretary Peake recognizes the systematic problems at Marion, our veterans have waited far too long for the VA to make the necessary improvements to ensure Marion has qualified personnel and operations. I will continue to work with Senator Durbin and other members of the delegation to ensure veterans in Illinois and throughout the country receive the care they deserve."
"I believe Secretary Peake agreeing to visit the Marion VAMC is a positive step, but it is clear from our meeting today and the recently released report on the working environment at Marion that there is a lot of hard work left to do," said Costello. "We emphasized the need to get a new senior leadership team in place as quickly as possible, and we also expressed our concerns that the VA must do a better job of communicating its progress and intentions with the greater Marion community. Secretary Peake stated that the VA wants to get this right and is working carefully to make sure that things are fixed at Marion and that the lessons learned here are applied across the VA system. Our veterans deserve nothing less and we will continue to monitor this effort closely."
"Our priority has to be the well-being of the veterans," said Shimkus. "The system's doctor-credentialing process was a mess. I emphasized to Secretary Peake that the process must be changed. In addition, the VA must be more pro-active in letting the public know what is taking place."
According to the Secretary, completion of the ABI report was required before new leadership could be put in place at the Marion facility. The report was originally commissioned 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.
Also in today's meeting, Secretary Peake informed the Illinois members that the tragic events at Marion have led to several changes at the VA. Since the suspension of surgeries last year, the National Federation of Medical Boards has been developing a commercial database to make is easier for VA hospitals and private hospitals to perform background checks on doctors and staff. Additionally, the VA will be proactively reviewing hospitals that are similar in size to Marion VAMC to ensure that potential problems are identified to ensure high quality patient care and safety.