Press Releases

VA Medical Errors Result in Second Largest Fine for NRC Violations

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Washington, March 17, 2010 | comments
WASHINGTON, D.C. –Today, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) levied the second largest fine the agency has ever imposed for several incidents at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in which patient safety was compromised during prostate cancer treatments.

The NRC is an independent agency created by Congress in 1974 to ensure the safe use of radioactive materials for civilian purposes such as in nuclear medicine. Beginning in 2008, the agency conducted several inspections, which revealed serious problems regarding lack of oversight in the Philadelphia VA brachytherapy program.

The inspections resulted in the imposition of today’s $227,500 fine. Brachytherapy is the medical insertion of a number of tiny radioactive seeds into the prostate to destroy cancer cells. The NRC identified eight apparent violations regarding the lack of patient safety procedures.

The Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held hearings on the incidents in July 2009 that resulted in similar findings.
“The revelation of several VA patient safety errors over the past year has been appalling and unacceptable,” said House Committee on Veteran’s Affairs Ranking Member Steve Buyer. “Today’s NRC fine serves to reiterate that the number one priority for VA must be patient safety. Veteran patients must never be put at risk like this again.”

“My heart goes out to these patriots who counted on the VA to help them and were harmed by their treatment,” said Deputy Ranking Member Cliff Stearns. “Although this fine underscores the need for VA health facilities to focus on patient safety, there needs to be greater accountability among VA health professionals and it is up to the VA to ensure that every veteran receives the highest quality of care at all VA facilities.”

“As I stated before, my primary concern is whether the negligence by the Philadelphia VA is indicative of overarching patient safety issues,” Subcommittee Ranking Member Dr. Phil Roe said. “Last year, we also held a hearing on problems pertaining to the cleaning and reprocessing of endoscopy equipment. That and other incidents relating to patient safety issues at the VA severely undermine the confidence veterans have in VA care. VA must do a better job of ensuring that patient safety standards are met and that thorough peer review is enforced at all facilities.”

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Tags: Veterans