DC veterans hospital staff urges new secretary: 'Stop this cover-up and incompetence'

Staff at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Washington, D.C., are pleading with newly appointed VA Secretary Robert Wilkie to act on deteriorating conditions at the facility, including increased infection rates and decreased patient satisfaction, USA Today reports.

Conditions at the hospital reached a point where a senior VA health executive notified local and regional officials in July that the situation is being investigated and more "leadership changes" could happen, according to internal documents obtained by USA Today.

But the hospital's employees, who remained anonymous, are concerned the effort won't change the hospital's condition. They cited an investigation concluded earlier this year that revealed VA managers were aware of dangerous conditions at the hospital for years but failed to fix them. The VA inspector general found "a culture of complacency and a sense of futility pervaded offices at multiple levels."

When the results were released in March, VA officials said "significant improvement" had been made, despite quality indicators continuing to deteriorate, such as ventilator complications rates and patient safety scores.     

"We ask you, our respected leaders, to stop this cover-up and incompetence, to really care and live up to America's promise to its heroes," the employees wrote to Mr. Wilkie and other VA officials. "Enough is enough."

In a reply to the employees, the VA said the secretary forwarded their concerns to top VA health officials.

VA Press Secretary Curt Cashour did not answer USA Today's questions on hospital conditions, but said VA officials are "taking additional measures to support the facility."

"VA appreciates the employees' concerns and will look into them right away," Mr. Cashour said. "Veterans deserve only the best when it comes to their healthcare, and that's why VA is focusing on improving its facilities in Washington and nationwide."

More articles on clinical leadership and infection control: 
How a Minnesota hospital is improving hand hygiene though a badge detection system
Nemours Children's rebuffed on bid for heart transplant program
Joint Commission will require hospitals to report percentage of newborns with unexpected complications

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