Veterans May Have Been Exposed to Infection, Viruses by VA Hospital
Medical malpractice does not just occur when a patient is exposed to a botched surgery or misdiagnosis. Sometimes, a crowded hospital, shared equipment, and a rushed and negligent medical staff can put patients at risk of serious infection or even communicable disease. For some veterans, the medical treatment they received at Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) hospitals exposed them not only to dangerous viruses, but to the difficulty of fighting healthcare professionals for their rightful compensation.
In late 2008, medical staff at a Tennessee VA hospital discovered blood in a water irrigation tubing system used for colonoscopies. A later investigation revealed that medical staff had attached a valve used only for cleaning of the unit to the device, which permitted backflow of dangerous bodily fluids into the tubing, and had failed to switch to the proper valve before administering the procedure to patients. Meanwhile, at a VA hospital in Miami, the medical staff had failed to disinfect colonoscopy equipment between patients. Sixteen other VA hospitals reported similar cleaning procedure failures.
Because the VA hospitals could not determine how long the faulty valve and unsanitary cleaning processes had been used, over nine thousand veterans received a letter from the VA warning that, during their previous treatment at VA hospitals, they may have been exposed to life-threatening infections. Colonoscopy equipment that had been misconfigured, or worse, uncleaned between patients, placed these veterans at risk for chronic hepatitis. Unfortunately, for some patients, the letter explained the source of their painful infections and viruses.
Legal Battle Reveals VA Apathy
In the Tennessee VA hospital, medical staff have admitted that they knew bodily fluids were being shared between colonoscopy patients. Nevertheless, the VA’s statement on the matter claims that the exposure was an aberration that has since been corrected. Meanwhile, the patients who were harmed by the VA’s negligence have struggled to find compensation. In 2013, the VA paid out less than a third of the medical malpractice claims filed all over the country, and more specifically, most of the 76 claims by veterans exposed to viruses by faulty colonoscopy procedures were denied.
The VA has claimed that their investigation “did not disclose any negligent acts or omissions” by its employees. Meanwhile, veterans report feeling “discarded,” and treated like opponents by the VA. This is far from the first time that the VA has faced the scandal of allegedly botched medical care and accusations of apathy. Despite facing continued legal scandal, the VA has continued to make controversial decisions such as rationing its hepatitis drugs, which would be vital for the treatment of veterans infected by their own faulty colonoscopy procedures.
Some veterans in Florida have experienced greater success, with one undisclosed settlement, and with another court award of over one million dollars to a veteran for the hepatitis caused by the VA hospital’s negligence. If you or a loved one has been infected or otherwise harmed by a hospital’s apathy, negligence, or faulty procedures, contact experienced Fort Lauderdale medical malpractice attorney Scott Newmark for help fighting back and ensuring you are properly compensated.