Veterans Affairs head blasts administration over hospital incident

The Democratic chairman of
the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee lambasted the Obama administration over
its handling of an incident at a St. Louis VA center in which more than 1,800
veterans were told they may have been exposed to HIV.

“It’s outrageous, one, that
this happens, but even worse is this secretive, almost cover-up mode that they
go into when something like this happens,” Rep. Bob Filner (D-Calif.) said on
CNN Monday.

The Department of Veterans
Affairs last month sent a letter to 1,812 patients informing them that they
could have been exposed to HIV and other deadly viruses because of dental
equipment that was insufficiently sterilized over a period of 13 months. The
agency said the risk of infection was “extremely low,” but urged patients to
return for blood tests. 

Filner criticized the
administration for taking more than three months to send out the letters after
it discovered the faulty safety precautions in March. “We should be much more
caring not only about the procedures but the way we deal with them after they’re
known,” the congressman said. He said it was “disgraceful” that Veterans
Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki did not know about the lapse until last

Filner said the “only way you
can get accountability is if there is someone who actually pays a price for
this,” although he did not explicitly call for Shinseki to be fired.

The Veterans Affairs Committee is holding a hearing on the issue
next week.

Tags Eric Shinseki

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