Health

Dayton VA Medical Center Notifies Veterans of Screening for HIV/AIDS

In a press release issued 8 Feb 2011, the public affairs office at the VA Medical Center, Dayton, Ohio notified the public that it was BEGINNING to notify 535 Veterans of potential infectious diseases due to substandard and unsanitary dental practices at the Dayton VAMC Dental Clinic.

This one hits close to home, for Dental Care has been the only care I receive from the Dayton VAMC, and I’m going to the Wright-Patterson AFB clinic to request screening for HIV/AIDs.

Director Guy Richardson at the Dayton, VAMC noted that “Services at the Dayton dental clinic resumed after internal and external reviews determined appropriate infection control practices were in place.”

The mainstream media, Veterans Service Organizations, and yes Veterans Today need to ask the Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki where is the Office of Inspector General or related reports that confirm as Mr. Richardson claims that internal and external reviews determined appropriate infection control practices were in place.”

I am on email alert for VA OIG updates, and I have reviewed the latest VA Office of Inspector General Reports to see if the investigation on this has been completed, but indications are that the internal investigation is still on-going, the report(s) have not been published, or there are not reports.

Robert L. Hanafin, Major, U.S. Air Force-Retired, U.S. Civil Service-Retired, Veterans Issues Editor, Veterans Today News Network.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, February 8, 2011

DAYTON, OHIO – The Dayton VA Medical Center is notifying 535 Veterans they are eligible to obtain free screenings for possible infections due to potential lapses in infection control procedures that occurred in the Dental clinic from January 1, 1992 through July 28, 2010.

“The Dayton VAMC is committed to ensuring that all Veterans and health care personnel are safe,” said Guy B. Richardson, Dayton VA Medical Center Director.  “Failure to follow infection control procedures is not acceptable and we take the safety of our patients seriously.  We are deeply sorry for the concern this circumstance has caused Veterans and their families.  The Dayton VAMC and all of VA are committed to transparency and to providing excellent care for the Veterans we are honored to serve.”

The infection risk is extremely low and limited to patients of a single clinician.  VA is contacting potentially affected Veterans by phone and sending certified letters to explain the situation.  Screenings for Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV are being offered at no cost to the Veteran.  Should an affected Veteran test positive, VA will provide the necessary care and treatment without charge.  The 18-year notification window reflects VA’s desire to take the ultimate caution in ruling out risks to Veterans.

In addition to the personal phone calls, certified letters and screenings, a Dedicated Dental Communication Center hotline was established to enable Veterans to make expedited appointments and receive additional information.  Patients may call 1-877-424-8214 seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

A Dental Special Care Clinic has been established to provide notified Veterans with a safe, easy, and private environment to obtain follow-up testing.  The Dental Special Care Clinic located at Lakeside Manor, building 320 on the Dayton VA Medical Center Campus will be open Monday through Friday from 8 am to 6 pm and Saturday from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm.  Notified Veterans may come any time during clinic hours or call the number above for an appointment.

The Dayton VA Medical Center emphasizes that screening is strictly precautionary and offered to patients who received invasive dental procedures by a specific clinician.  There is no indication any patients have contracted an infection.

After discovery of the risks by a VA review team, dental treatments were temporarily suspended while a safety review took place.  Staff members at the facility were extensively retrained on proper infection control procedures, the dental service was placed under new leadership, extensive environment of care activities were initiated that included equipment preventive maintenance, safety inspection, wall-to-wall deep cleaning, review of all Supply, Processing and Distribution supplies, review of clean storage areas, and completion of any work order supporting dental operations.  Dental Service Standard Operating Procedures were reviewed and revised where necessary and competencies for all staff were documented for the training received.  Services at the Dayton dental clinic resumed after internal and external reviews determined appropriate infection control practices were in place.

Clinical staff at the facility continues to review relevant patient records and will conduct validation studies to ensure all Veteran records are thoroughly inspected and verified.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
Donna Simmons, Assistant to Director/Public Affairs Officer
Office: (937) 262-2165, after hours (937) 309-6493
[email protected]

Veterans Today Editorial Comment:

We at Veterans Today believe it is way past time that the Department of Veterans Affairs NOT be allowed to simply go into DAMAGE CONTROL mode every time a scandal like this happens. These letters from VA Hospital Directors and/or their Public Affairs offices are intended to DOWNPLAY the seriousness of these situations.

Let ask you, especially if you were a career lifer, if this happened to you in an active duty military hospital or the VA just how pissed would you be?

I’d frankly be pissed enough to contact a lawyer and instigate a class action lawsuit on behalf of anyone potentially exposed to AIDs, etc…especially those of us who test positive.

Although not a perfect watchdog system, it is very important that if you are an employee or patient at any VA Hospital, and you note scandalous behavior going on under mismanagement’s nose, it is your duty to contact (1) the Department of Veterans Affairs IG Hotline, (2) contact at least one Senator, or one Congressman (preferably of the party you are registered to vote for), (3) ask your Congressional Reps to work these concerns with both the VA Headquarters in DC, and the VA Office of the Inspector General.

In order for Veterans Today to do a better job at monitoring mismanagement, unsanitary practices, and scandalous behavior in our VA Hospitals, we have request email alerts from the VA OIG. We plan on making details of these IG reports public knowledge within the Veterans and Military Family communities.

For that matter any reader can get on a VA email alert from the VA/OIG just by signing up on their website.

Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of the Inspector General HOTLINE

http://www.va.gov/oig/

To Report Suspected Wrongdoing in VA Programs and Operations

Telephone: 1-800-488-8244 between 8:30AM and 4PM Eastern Time,

Monday through Friday, excluding Federal holidays

E-Mail: [email protected]

The related media coverage of this VA misconduct is overwhelming as confirmed by the links below, but no one is asking the hard questions. We strongly believe that especially if disciplinary action is taken against any VA employee be it a Dentist, Medical Doctor, Surgeon, Nurse, or admin staff member that criminals name should be released to the public no different than if he/she were a sex offender.

How can any patient that has receive dental care between January 1, 1992 through July 28, 2010 (We are talking what 18 years). Well that may give a hint as to who the dentist is, but we strongly feel that the vast majority of Veterans who received care over the last 18 years from the Dayton VAMC Dental Clinic would be better served to know who the VA offenders are, especially if they were professional medical or dental personnel.

If no VA/OIG report comes out shorty, we intend respectfully asking those Veterans Service Organizations recognized by the VA to file a Freedom of Information Request to determine exactly what happened at the Dayton VAMC. If need be, we will submit our own should VSOs with their logos posted in the lobby of the Dayton VAMC prefer not to paint the Dayton VAMC in a negative light.

The initial media reports that something was very wrong at the Dayton VAMC surfaced last November 2010 in a story carried by the Dayton Daily News.

Infection control among workers is focus of VA dental clinic investigation http://www.daytondailynews.com/news/dayton-news/infection-control-among-workers-is-focus-of-va-dental-clinic-investigation-1006459.html

The Dayton VA Medical Center closed its dental clinic for three weeks late this summer as part of an ongoing investigation into whether employees were following infection control practices.

VA dental clinic’s temporary closing causes backlog http://www.daytondailynews.com/news/dayton-news/va-dental-clinics-temporary-closing-causes-backlog-1076433.html

The dental clinic saw 3,142 veterans and had 11,400 visits during federal fiscal year 2010 (Oct. 1, 2009 – Sept. 30, 2010). The Dayton VA will face no financial penalties, but has implemented a “dental infection control dashboard” to heighten infection control surveillance and randomly review its clinicians’ competencies and credentials, [Hospital Director Guy] Richardson said.

VA Dentist May Have Exposed Veterans To HIV, Hepatitis http://www.whiotv.com/news/26788140/detail.html

According to officials with the Veteran’s [Administration], one dentist, who has not been identified, did not follow proper sanitary procedures. The dentist allegedly failed to wash his hands or sterilize dental equipment between patients. That would put the patients at risk for possibly being infected with HIV or Hepatitis B or C. Officials said those 535 patients at-risk will be contacted by telephone beginning on Tuesday. Then, these patients will be asked to come to the clinic to be tested. Dr. George Arana of the Veterans Administration said, “The plan is to have these veterans come in and have blood tests and notify them as soon as possible about the outcome of those tests. But because of the nature of how these illnesses are transmitted and acquired, it may take up to six months to know for sure if there was a transmission or not.”

The case is under investigation by the Veteran’s Administration.

Lawyers are standing by to possibly take Veterans’ Claims or Law Suits Dayton VA Dental Patients May Be Screened For Infection http://www.disabilitylawclaims.com/blog/dayton-va-dental-patients-may-be-screened-for-infection.cfm

The VA will not decide if they’re going to contact anyone until after they conclude their OIG investigation. The VA, however, has not performed any testing to determine if there is any possibility any patients were actually infected while at the dental clinic. An internal VA email mentioned up to 2,000 veterans and their spouses could be affected but the VA has not confirmed this number, or if anyone would actually be affected at all. It is possible the improper infection control practices have been ongoing for decades. Veterans were not given notification the clinic had closed until 3 months after it happened. The VA owes it to the patients of that dental clinic to find out if exposure to infection was a possibility.

VA dental service chief aware dentist failed to sterilize tools http://www.daytondailynews.com/news/dayton-news/va-dental-service-chief-aware-dentist-failed-to-sterilize-tools-1077574.html

At least one former supervisor at the Dayton VA Medical Center’s dental clinic took little action after learning a dentist often reused dental equipment on patients without sterilizing it first, according to testimony obtained Wednesday by the Dayton Daily News. The dentist’s performance had been an issue for years. When told the dentist’s actions likely exposed veterans to blood-borne pathogens, a former dental service chief told investigators the dentist “was not trainable. He wouldn’t take direction. And given the circumstances — that I had not really any avenue to get him out of the service — there wasn’t a lot I felt I could do at the time.” A 42-page Dayton VA investigation report shows several dental clinic employees knew for years a dentist was not following proper hygiene practices.

Xenia Veteran Among First Tested In VA Center Probe – see the video on WHIO TV Dayton at http://www.whiotv.com/news/26819935/detail.html

Officials said the possible contamination dates back to 1992, and may have happened when the dentist did not wash his hands or the equipment between patients. The dentist is still on the payroll, but according to VA officials, he had not seen patients since last summer. The Xenia veteran said, that is not enough, “I don’t need to know his name. I just need to know that he won’t ever practice again. That would give me some peace and satisfaction.”

Dayton VA hospital: Dentist didn’t change gloves http://www.wdtn.com/dpp/news/dayton-va-hospital%3A-dentist-didn’t-change-gloves

An Ohio veterans hospital says more than 500 dental patients will be offered free screenings to determine if they were infected by a dentist who Veterans Affairs officials say failed to change latex gloves between patients.

Author Details
Readers are more than welcome to use the articles I've posted on Veterans Today, I've had to take a break from VT as Veterans Issues and Peace Activism Editor and staff writer due to personal medical reasons in our military family that take away too much time needed to properly express future stories or respond to readers in a timely manner.My association with VT since its founding in 2004 has been a very rewarding experience for me.Retired from both the Air Force and Civil Service. Went in the regular Army at 17 during Vietnam (1968), stayed in the Army Reserve to complete my eight year commitment in 1976. Served in Air Defense Artillery, and a Mechanized Infantry Division (4MID) at Fort Carson, Co. Used the GI Bill to go to college, worked full time at the VA, and non-scholarship Air Force 2-Year ROTC program for prior service military. Commissioned in the Air Force in 1977. Served as a Military Intelligence Officer from 1977 to 1994. Upon retirement I entered retail drugstore management training with Safeway Drugs Stores in California. Retail Sales Management was not my cup of tea, so I applied my former U.S. Civil Service status with the VA to get my foot in the door at the Justice Department, and later Department of the Navy retiring with disability from the Civil Service in 2000.I've been with Veterans Today since the site originated. I'm now on the Editorial Board. I was also on the Editorial Board of Our Troops News Ladder another progressive leaning Veterans and Military Family news clearing house.I remain married for over 45 years. I am both a Vietnam Era and Gulf War Veteran. I served on Okinawa and Fort Carson, Colorado during Vietnam and in the Office of the Air Force Inspector General at Norton AFB, CA during Desert Storm. I retired from the Air Force in 1994 having worked on the Air Staff and Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon.

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