January 14,2010

Grassley asks VA secretary about exposure of VA patients to infectious diseases due to health system mishaps

WASHINGTON --- Based on an internal agency memo documenting the incident, Senator Chuck Grassley is asking the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to respond to information about the wrong filter being used in dialysis machines at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System last year, putting 83 patients, and possibly more, who were treated using the contaminated machines at risk for being infected with hepatitis, HIV, or other infectious diseases. Grassley said it’s his understanding that all of the patients have yet to be informed.

“This account raises serious questions about the VA’s infection control processes and practices,” Grassley said. “It comes on top of an independent news report last year about 11,000 VA system patients being told to get their blood checked for possible exposure to infectious body fluids and a similar, incident in 2006. Patients in the VA health care system deserve to be informed promptly of their exposure to risk. And the VA needs to hold its facilities accountable and take prompt action to prevent incidents like these in the future.”

Grassley regularly conducts pro-active congressional oversight of the executive branch on behalf of taxpayers and beneficiaries of federal programs.

The text of Grassley’s letter to VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki is attached.