Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen blasts VA response to infections
By FRED TASKER
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, on Thursday wrote to U.S. Secretary of Veterans' Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki expressing alarm that almost one-third of veterans who may have been exposed to hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV by improperly cleaned colonoscopy equipment at the VA's Miami hospital have not responded for testing.
''Previously, I have expressed to you my serious concerns regarding the exposure of over 3,348 veterans to several potentially deadly infections,'' her letter states. ``Though this was a catastrophe in and of itself, an even greater disaster is brewing if the VA continues to be unable to reach almost a third of the risk pool for testing and treatment.''
A VA report on May 8 said that of 3,348 Miami veterans potentially infected between May 2004 and March 2009, 1,053 had not responded to the disclosure.
It means 28 percent of the veterans in Miami who were notified that they might be infected had not responded for testing, compared with only 6 percent in Augusta, Ga., and 5 percent in Murfreesboro, Tenn., where similar problems with equipment were reported.
The VA report said that, so far, three Miami veterans have been found with HIV, seven with hepatitis C and one with hepatitis B.
The VA says there is no way of knowing whether the veterans were infected by the equipment, but has promised to care for all infected veterans for life.