VA clinic warns of possible contamination
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. - Thousands of patients at a Veterans Administration clinic in Tennessee may have been exposed to infectious body fluids of other patients when they had colonoscopies in recent years, and VA medical facilities all over the United States are reviewing procedures.
VA officials also said a problem was found with equipment at an ear, nose, and throat clinic at the VA medical center in Augusta, Ga., and 1,800 veterans have been notified they may have been exposed to infection there.
A spokesman at Alvin C. York VA Medical Center in Murfreesboro, Tenn., said the clinic is offering free blood tests and care to all patients whose records show they had colonoscopies between April 23, 2003, and Dec. 1, 2008.
Christopher Conklin said notification letters were sent this week by registered mail to 6,378 patients of the Murfreesboro facility. He said no related health problems have been reported, and every measure is being taken to assure affected veterans are screened. One veteran who received notification, Gary Simpson, 57, said, "The fact that it took five years for them to catch a mistake like that - it seems like somebody should have caught an incorrect valve and incorrect cleaning of the equipment during that time." His wife, Janice, called the discovery "sickening."
Conklin said a valve on equipment used in the colonoscopies was discovered wrongly connected Dec. 1 and the mistake was traced back to April 23, 2003.
A VA statement said that in response to the discovery at Murfreesboro and an inspection that found a problem with endoscopic equipment at the VA medical center in Augusta, Ga., all VA medical centers and outpatient clinics are reviewing procedures.
A VA statement said 1,800 veterans who were treated in Augusta, Ga., from January through November last year in the ear, nose, and throat clinic at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center are being notified "that they may have been exposed to infection because the instrument used in the procedure was improperly disinfected." The statement described the risk of infection as "extremely small."