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Report says Cochran VA Center has fixed most instrument, patient safety problems

This article first appeard in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 12, 2012 - WASHINGTON – Responding to a series of inspectors' critiques, managers at the John Cochran VA Medical Center in St. Louis have “taken multiple corrective actions” to fix most of the problems related to instrument cleaning and patient safety, a new report says.

The report – released Wednesday by the office of U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. – said that some further actions are needed but concluded that inspectors could “close” its recommendations.

Cochran “has made vast improvements in its [reuseable medical equipment]-related policies and practices over the past six months and the central issue of patient safety during dental procedures has been addressed,” said the report by the VA Office of Inspector General.

Specifically, the report said, the medical center’s Supply Processing Service has moved into a “fully renovated, state-of-the-art space,” has filled leadership positions and improved its oversight process.

However, the inspectors said “further actions are needed to fully resolve documentation discrepancies related to staff competencies” and to make sure that minutes of the committee that considers equipment sterilization issues reflect the discussion of “reported deficiencies.”

In 2011 studies and a report written in April but not released to the public until June, the inspector had complained about reports of problems at Cochran – including a patient death after dialysis treatment that inspectors believe showed inadequate nursing care and leadership.

McCaskill, who along with other lawmakers from Missouri and Southern Illinois had pushed for improvements at Cochran, said in a statement Wednesday that “there is clearly still work that needs to be done to continue strengthening veterans’ care, but these improvements are possible because the St. Louis VA Medical Center took this investigation seriously, and because we never let up the pressure to get this right.”

UPDATE: On Thursday, U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis, said in a statement that he was "very pleased that the new, state-of-the-art Supply Processing Service (SPS) is fully staffed and running around the clock.”

“Over the last two years, I have worked closely with the Department of Veterans Affairs, the medical staff and hospital employees to support their team efforts to correct the serious problems at Cochran so that our veterans can be assured that they will receive the highest standards of safety and patient care.  The inspector general’s report is proof positive that our efforts have succeeded.”  END UPDATE