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Miami Veterans Administration Hospital Reaching Out On Colonoscopy Risk

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

The Miami Veterans Administration hospital will take additional steps to reach the veterans it has not yet been able to contact to warn them that improperly cleaned VA colonoscopy equipment might have infected them with hepatitis or HIV.

Among the efforts: sending seven nurses door-to-door on June 6 seeking the 216 veterans, and a ''Reach Out Fair'' June 13 at the Miami VA to try to change the minds of 72 veterans who have been notified but have declined to come in for testing.

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, reported the outreach effort Thursday after a briefing the previous day at the Miami VA hospital.

In late March, the hospital had notified more than 3,000 local veterans of the possible infections from colonoscopies given there between May 2004 and March of this year. Officials tentatively blamed it on staffers who rinsed part of the equipment instead of sterilizing it with disinfectant.

Later, it reduced by 500 the number of veterans it said had had colonoscopies with the improperly cleaned equipment. As of May 22, its most recent previous report, the VA said 332 veterans had not been reached, and Ros-Lehtinen urged them to increase their efforts. The new number released Wednesday is 216.

So far, three Miami veterans have tested positive for HIV and eight for hepatitis. VA officials say there is no way to firmly link the infections to VA equipment. But it has promised to care for every infected veteran for life.

On Thursday Ros-Lehtinen called the new VA actions ``appropriate and correct.''

''It is squarely on them to begin the process of gaining back the public trust,'' she said.

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