Veterans have long complained of the treatment they've received at Cochran, located near downtown St. Louis. The complaints are wide-ranging, from staff shortages and long waiting periods, to exposure to dangerous infections.
Problems at Cochran have led to:
* The suspension of surgeries in early February 2011 after the discovery of potentially contaminated surgical equipment, plus other "systemic failures." These problems led federal lawmakers from Missouri and Illinois -- including U.S. Reps. Jerry Costello, D-Belleville, and John Shimkus, R-Collinsville -- to sign a letter calling for the House Veterans Affairs Committee to investigate.
The problems that have plagued Cochran are hardly unique. In 2011, officials at the Dayton, Ohio, VA Medical Center announced that more than 500 veterans would be offered HIV screenings to find out if they were infected by a dentist who for 18 years failed to follow the infection control standard of changing latex gloves between patients.
Two years before, the VA announced that about 10,000 veterans treated at its hospitals in Miami, Murfreesboro, Tenn., and Augusta, Ga., had been potentially exposed to HIV and hepatitis, also because of the shoddy sterilization of instruments used for colonoscopies and other procedures.
Closer to home, the Marion VA Hospital -- which serves veterans in parts of Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky -- fell under intense scrutiny in August 2007, when a patient bled to death after gallbladder surgery.
Investigators found that at last nine deaths between October 2006 and March 2007 stemmed from substandard care. Another 10 patients died after receiving questionable care that led to health problems, according to published news reports.continue learning