Press Releases

Oversight Subcommittee Investigates Latest Patient Care Problem at VA

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Washington, July 22, 2009 | comments
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing regarding several incidents at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical center in Philadelphia, in which patient safety was compromised during prostate cancer treatments.

Investigations into substandard treatments revealed lack of oversight and systemic problems in the Philadelphia VA’s brachytherapy program. Brachytherapy is the medical insertion of a number of tiny radioactive seeds into the prostate to destroy cancer cells. To ensure accurate placement, post-procedural steps are necessary to see if the seeds were implanted in the right place. VA’s investigation found a lack of policies to address post-implant management and proper patient dosing.

“The issue we should really be addressing today is not only the alleged deficient medical practice by one particular doctor, but whether this is indicative of an overarching patient safety issue across VA,” Ranking Member of the Subcommittee, Dr. Phil Roe said. “Just last month, we held a hearing on problems pertaining to the cleaning and reprocessing of endoscopy equipment. Now we are discussing other incidents that call into question patient safety at the VA Medical Center in Philadelphia.”

“While I am frustrated by this latest problem, we need to keep in mind the good quality care most veterans receive at VA medical facilities, and avoid undermining the confidence veterans have in VA care. Brachytherapy is a documented safe medical procedure that saves lives, and I certainly do not wish to deter veterans from utilizing it. That said, I am gravely concerned that these issues continue to crop up. VA needs to do a better job of ensuring that patient safety standards are met and that thorough peer review is enforced at all facilities. ”

“I cannot emphasize enough that the health care of our servicemembers and veterans should be among our nation’s highest priorities. We rely on them for our safety and protection from those who wish us harm, and it is a small price in return for us to ensure that their health care treatments meet the gold-standard in quality and patient safety measures.”

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