Illinois VA hospital knew of cockroaches in kitchen but 'failed to address issue': OIG report

Cockroaches were reportedly a "persistent presence" in and around the food services areas at the Edward Hines (Ill.) Jr. Veterans Affairs Hospital, with multiple reports indicating the bugs were also found on food trays later served to patients, according to a Business Insider report.

Federal officials said the issue was apparent during an on-site visit May 10, 2016, according to a report by the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of the Inspector General cited by Business Insider.

During the visit, officials "found dead cockroaches on glue traps dispersed throughout the facility's main kitchen" and "substantiated that at least several patients received food trays with cockroaches on them," the report stated.

Federal officials said they examined email correspondence between the mental health staff and food and nutrition service workers from March 11, 2011, through December 28, 2015. One reported dated March 13, 2014, stated the staff had received six complaints from patients confirming cockroaches were found on food trays, according to Business Insider.

The report also stated administrators were aware of the issue but "did not take additional action to control the problem."

The OIG report suggests the hospital take the following actions:

  • Complete a complete analysis of the basement and sub-basement to ensure measures are in place to prevent water from coming into the structure
  • Ensure staffing is "sufficient" to perform all required duties including cleaning and sanitation
  • Determine if moving the main kitchen to a new area of the hospital is feasible

Part of the issue, federal officials claim, was the lack of stable leadership during the period. Between 2011 and 2016, the VA hospital had 10 directors, according to Business Insider.

A spokesperson for the Hines VA facility said in a statement to the Washington Examiner: "The conditions present in May of 2016 when [the inspector general] inspected the kitchen were unacceptable … Providing a safe environment and quality care for our veterans is our top priority, and that includes serving quality, nutritious food that is prepared and delivered under proper sanitary conditions. [The] VA agrees with the VA Office of Inspector General's findings."

"[The] VA is confident that we have the right team in place and correct action plans well underway to resolve this issue," the statement continued. "Hines VA Hospital has taken steps to increase staff within the Nutrition and Food service, hired a contractor to provide nightly cleaning in the kitchen after hours and a deep cleaning twice a month, implemented a comprehensive cleaning schedule, and repaired tiles and pipes that created issues with standing water. We're committed to making all necessary changes to provide the best environment for our veterans."

To read the Hines VA hospital's full statement, click here.

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