Kuster Statement on Office of Inspector General Finding of Conditions at Washington, DC VA Medical Center
(Washington, DC) – Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02), the lead Democrat on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs’ Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, released the following statement on the results of an Office of Inspector General (OIG) report on conditions at the Washington, DC VAMC. The report identified that medical equipment and supply shortages and an ineffective inventory management system are placing patients at risk of harm. Additionally, senior management were aware of at least some of these issues since at least January 2017 and no actions were taken until IG’s team substantiated several of the allegations provided by a complainant. In response to the report, the Department of Veterans Affairs has removed the medical center director.
“I’m deeply disturbed that veterans seeking care in Washington, DC may have been exposed to unsafe and unsanitary medical facilities and equipment,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “There is clearly a failure of leadership at the Washington VAMC when conditions have been allowed to lapse to the point that sterile supply areas are dirty and expired surgical equipment has been used on patients. This is entirely unacceptable. The VA must immediately work to fill the many staff vacancies that are impacting patient care. Furthermore, the existence of $150 million in unaccounted for equipment underscores the need to fix the VA’s procurement process and procedures. In addition to the equipment and supply shortages, I am very concerned that senior management appeared unwilling to address the problem.
This report identifies why accountability at the VA is so important as well as the need to protect the ability of whistleblowers to report violations to the Inspector General. The VA made the appropriate decision to remove the medical center director but we need to ensure that all those not working in the best interest of our veterans are held accountable. We must act swiftly to improve conditions at the Washington VAMC and closely look at conditions at VAMCs around the country to ensure that veterans nowhere are exposed to such conditions.”
The OIG report findings include:
- The VAMC didn’t have a patient safety recall system in place for supplies and equipment
- 18 out of 25 sterile satellite supply storage areas were dirty
- $150 million in supplies hadn’t been inventoried in the past year
- A lease for a warehouse full of non-inventoried equipment expires on April 30, 2017 and no plan is in place to transfer the contents to another facility before that date.
Numerous critical senior staff positions are unfilled including:
- Associate Director for Patient Care Services
- Chief of HR
- Chief Business Officer
- Chief of Mental Health
- Chief of Voluntary Service
- Chief of Integrated Health and Wellness
- Chief of Police
- Chief of Radiology
- Chief and Deputy Chief Logistics Officers