Congressional VA chair to visit Dorn VA Medical Center troubled - - Columbia, South Carolina |

Congressional VA chair to visit Dorn VA Medical Center troubled by dust in operating rooms

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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS/AP) - Officials say they may have to reconstruct the entire ventilation system that heats, cools and filters the air in the operating rooms at the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Columbia.

Dorn VA officials say they have no idea when the operating rooms might reopen.

Authorities closed the operating rooms in early October after finding dust on equipment caused by a disintegrating filter. The rooms were thoroughly cleaned and remained closed for weeks.

The operating rooms were opened again in late November, but closed four days later after more dust was found.

Officials say dust appears to have settled deep into the ducts where they cannot be cleaned.

The VA says surgeries for its patients are being performed at other facilities across Columbia.

On Jan. 6, U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs will be leading congressional oversight visits to the Columbia and Augusta, Ga., VA Medical Centers, according to a media release from the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

The oversight visits are the result of at least nine preventable veteran deaths linked to delays in medical care at the Columbia and Augusta facilities, the release states.

The issue of delays in care in Columbia and Augusta first surfaced as part of a March 14 HVAC hearing, and subsequent committee investigative efforts identified more than 4,500 unresolved gastroenterology (GI) consults at the Augusta VAMC as well as a backlog of nearly 3,000 GI consults at the Columbia facility.

The Columbia and Augusta deaths are part of a pattern of at least 21 recent preventable veteran deaths and a host of lapses in care at VA medical facilities across the country identified by VA Inspector General and media reports.

The Jan. 6 oversight visits are expected to include an executive briefing from VA officials at each facility regarding the steps department leaders have taken to address problems with delays in care and hold accountable VA employees and executives who may be responsible for allowing patients to slip through the cracks, the release states. 

"Nearly three months ago, the committee asked VA for a detailed list of all VA facilities where delays in care persist as well as information regarding disciplinary actions taken against any VA employees involved in delays in care in Augusta and Columbia," the release states. 
"To date, VA has not complied with these requests."

Copyright 2013 WIS/The Associated Press.

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