Sen. Bob Casey is calling for federal officials to release a report on the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak at the VA Hospital in Pittsburgh.
Sen. Casey sent a letter to the head of the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs in which he calls for reform of the VA’s public notification protocols.
In the letter, Sen. Casey says that making the report public is one way to ensure this type of thing never happens again.
Read the full letter here:
Dear Secretary Shinseki:
I am writing to express my continued concern with the response to the recent outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System (VAPHS). Effective communication, both internal and external, is critical. There is more that the VA can do to provide pertinent information to the public about the outbreak and response. As you know, the House Committee on Veterans Affairs’ Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing on February 5, 2013 about the Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak and response at the VAPHS. The testimony raised many questions about events leading up to the outbreak and how the VAPHS handled the outbreak once it occurred. The testimony by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) covered their investigation of the outbreak and the subsequent January 25, 2013 report. I ask that the VA publically release the January 25, 2013 CDC report about the VAPHS Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak.
Understandably, any patient sensitive information in the report should be redacted in advance. A public report would provide valuable information about the outbreak and the VA’s response to the families who have been impacted by this tragedy. Also, the people of southwestern Pennsylvania have a right to know what happened. The CDC testimony and report indicated several specific areas for improvement.
I ask for your assurance that the following actions have or will be taken:
1. VAPHS follows best practices for maintaining any Legionella control system as recommended by public health agencies and manufacturers;
2. VAPHS is now following the water sampling protocol discussed and recommended by the CDC in their report and that VA water sampling policy has been modified to reflect that such best practices will be used going forward in all VA facilities that are prone to Legionella infection;
3. Internal VA communications plans between the pathology labs, prevention team, providers, and patients will be revised and improved based on the feedback from the CDC and lessons learned from this recent outbreak; and
4. External communications plans between the VAPHS, Pennsylvania Department of Health and the Allegheny County Health Department regarding Legionnaires’ Disease surveillance and outbreak response be revised and improved based on the feedback from the CDC and lessons learned from this recent outbreak.
In addition to these recommendations, I ask that you outline for me the specific protocols you expect to put in place to inform the CDC, other stakeholders and the public in the future. Appropriate reporting requirements are essential to keep people safe and informed. I know that both you and I share a commitment to the men and women of our Armed Forces who have made such extraordinary sacrifices for our nation. Please know that I will continue to give this issue my personal attention until I am confident that all questions have been answered and that a tragedy like this will never happen again.
Sincerely, Robert P. Casey, Jr. United States Senator