Brown, Portman, and Turner Express Profound Concern to Secretary Shinseki on Dayton VA Hospital Investigation

Letter Requests Copies of Investigation, Outside Review, and National Level Investigation

WASHINGTON D.C. - Today, U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Rob Portman (R-OH), and U.S. Rep. Mike Turner (OH-3) wrote to Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) Eric Shinseki, urging him to investigate the lack of oversight that allegedly allowed a practitioner at the Dayton VA Medical Center’s dental clinic to violate medical standards of practice over a period of 18 years. According to reports, the alleged actions potentially exposed hundreds of veterans to blood-borne pathogens.

In the letter, the three lawmakers requested the VA Secretary to “order a review of all VA Medical Facility oversight policies and procedures to ensure that veterans are receiving the quality of care that they deserve, and which had been promised to them.” Further, the letter requests that a National level Administrative Investigation Board (AIB) reinvestigate the Dayton Medical Facility. “In doing so, the VA will restore the confidence of its patients and prevent similar events from occurring at other facilities,” Brown, Portman, and Turner write.

Lastly, the letter requests that the VA provide copies of the System-wide Ongoing Assessment Review Strategy (SOARS) investigations along with any other internal investigations surrounding the incident.  The two Ohio Senators and Dayton Congressman plan to submit these investigations to the Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association (GDAHA) Task Force in order to inform the community on the nature of the infractions.  “We also hope to use this information in our efforts to work with the Dayton VA Medical Center to strengthen healthcare for veterans in the Miami Valley region,” they added.

The full text of the letter follows below.

February 17, 2010

 

 

The Honorable Eric K. Shinseki

Secretary

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

810 Vermont Avenue, N.W.

Washington, D.C.  20240

 

 

 

Dear Secretary Shinseki:

 

We are writing to express our profound concern about the lack of oversight that allegedly allowed a practitioner at the Dayton Veterans Affairs Medical Center’s dental clinic to violate medical standards of practice over a period of 18 years, potentially exposing hundreds of veterans to blood-borne pathogens.

 

As you are aware, the VA recently identified at least 535 former patients, most of whom still reside in the Dayton area, who were potentially exposed to blood-borne pathogens that may include Hepatitis-B, Hepatitis-C, and HIV. It is now being recommended that former patients of the identified practitioner undergo testing for these diseases. 

 

Statements from former dental clinic employees demonstrate the severity of the violations and lack of oversight. 

 

One former employee noted: “I’ve seen him literally walk from his room with this patient’s denture in one hand, go across to another room, open this patient’s mouth with this denture of the opposite patient in his hand,” one dental assistant told investigators. “I’ve seen him use the same instruments, the same handpiece, the same burs all day long on every patient. I’ve seen him go out of the clinic and push the button on the elevators with dirty gloves on. I’ve seen him open lab doors with dirty gloves on; I’ve seen him go in the lunchroom and use the microwave with dirty gloves on.”

 

Given the severity of these alleged infractions, the number of years that these unsafe practices were apparently allowed to continue, and the very real danger posed to veterans, we request that you order a review of all VA Medical Facility oversight policies and procedures to ensure that veterans are receiving the quality of care that they deserve, and which had been promised to them.  Further, we would request that a National level Administrative Investigation Board (AIB) reinvestigate the Dayton Medical Facility.  In doing so, the VA will restore the confidence of its patients and prevent similar events from occurring at other facilities.

 

We also request that you provide copies of the System-wide Ongoing Assessment Review Strategy (SOARS) investigations along with any other internal investigations surrounding the incident.  We will submit these investigations to the Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association Task Force in order to inform the community on the nature of the infractions.  We also hope to use this information in our efforts to work with the Dayton VA Medical Center to strengthen healthcare for veterans in the Miami Valley region.

 

We would appreciate your cooperation on this matter and hope that we can work together to improve the quality of care provided to our nation’s veterans. 

###

Press Contact

(202) 224-3978