Congressman Russ Carnahan, who has led the effort for independent, inspections and reviews of the John Cochran VA Medical Center in St. Louis said today the progress thus far in improving patient care fails to address the deficit of confidence in the medical center. Carnahan requested a briefing today from the Office of the Inspector General in advance of their most recent evaluation becoming public. This latest report reveals that many of the required action items to address sterilization protocols called for nearly a year ago, have yet to be implemented, despite on-site visits and detailed recommendations on compliance.
"The reaction time to the IG's list of corrective steps is too sluggish," said Carnahan. "Veterans deserve a sense of urgency. They've earned the right to first-rate care, not the slow pace of improvements we've seen to date in such critical areas of sterilization and training."
Carnahan, who is a member of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, acknowledges that the medical center has made significant strides in some categories of the overall patient experience, from facility improvements to increasing staff retention and morale, but the Congressman said the two most severe deficiencies-- sterilization procedures and adequate training in sterilization processes, had still not been sufficiently addressed as cited in the Inspector General's report.
"These two most critical recommendations have yet to be implemented," Carnahan added. "The progress to date is not acceptable. I have asked the office of the Inspector General to provide more frequent and closer oversight of the hospital administration to provide immediate direction on remedial actions and to keep me informed on their progress."
Following the report analysis from the IG's office, Carnahan immediately spoke to hospital administrators and labor leaders at the medical center, who relayed their ongoing struggles with staff retention and high turnover rates. Carnahan encouraged hospital leadership to actively recruit veterans who've been recently discharged from active duty, who have medical training which can be put to use at the veterans medical center whenever and however possible.
Since the negative reports regarding sterilization and training first surfaced, Carnahan has led the effort for on-site inspections and open dialogue which has included Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric Shinseki, Veterans Committee Chair Jeff Miller (R-FL) the Cochran Medical Center Director Rima Nelson, members of the AFGE and several veterans service organizations who took part in a briefing from the Congressman today.
"We appreciate and support the Congressman's diligence in making the medical center better for veterans," said Stan Brown, President of the Gateway Chapter of Paralyzed Veterans of America. "We should be able to depend on it being safe and clean."
"Our country counted on us when we were called to duty," added Dave Morgan, former State Commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. "And we have earned the right to continued confidence in our veteran medical care system. It's time they passed muster."
Greg Favre, Chief of Staff, The Mission Continues said, "we appreciate Congressman Carnahan's sustained support on resolving the issues at Cochran and his proactive role in bringing to light the issues and proposed solutions. We appreciate his constant discipline."
The Inspector General's report can be viewed today after 3:00 P.M. ET, under "Recently Released Reports."