Surgeries are canceled and operating rooms are shut down at John Cochran VA Hospital.
It's under fire once again. The allegation this time? Surgical tools were not properly sterilized.
News 4's Maggie Crane has been digging into the complaints all evening.
They fought for us, now congress is vowing to fight a local hospital for our veterans. Thirty-five surgeries will have to be rescheduled after dirty surgical tools were discovered at John Cochran VA Hospital on Wednesday. The operating room will be shut down through Friday as the hospital inspects to find out what went wrong.
"Are you afraid every time you go in there?" Maggie Crane asked Navy veteran Terri Odom.
"I'm petrified," she said. "I'm petrified of needles, I'm petrified of the pharmacy. I mean how can I not be at this rate?"
"But you have no other options?" Maggie asked.
"I have no other healthcare," Odom said. "This is it."
Odom testified in a congressional hearing about deplorable conditions inside John Cochran VA Hospital. She's says she has not noticed a change.
"The cleanliness of the hospital is still substandard," Odom said.
Already under fire over unsanitized dental instruments last summer, the latest complaint is dirty surgical tools.
Medical Director RimaAnn O. Nelson said in a statement:
"The medical center cancelled surgeries February 2 after a regular inspection of surgical instrument trays noted spots on the trays and water stains on at least one surgical instrument. These concerns were caught before any patients were operated on, and this serves as an example of the medical center's heightened patient precaution systems at work."
But Missouri Congressman Russ Carnahan questions how it happened in the first place. He says -- enough is enough.
"I think it's high time that there be a top to bottom independent review of the management on down," Carnahan said during a phone interview Thursday afternoon.
He's now in a position to order that review. On Thursday the congressman announced a new post on the House Veterans' Affairs committee.
"It just makes my blood boil," Carnahan said. "Nobody deserves that, especially veterans who have stood up for us. We need to be there fighting for them to make sure that they are getting the best care this country has to offer."
One veteran's relative sent News 4 several photos from inside the hospital. He says conditions are shoddy and unsanitary. We showed them to Odom and she says they look very recent.
Last month, Terri was at Cochran for a sleep study but hardly slept much.
"The ceiling I had to look at was full of mold and dirt and filth," Odom said. "The sheets had not been changed in I don't know when. There were cracker crumbs. I don't know what else congress can say to the VA hospital -- please, for the life of us, we're begging you -- get it right."
Missouri U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill sent the following statement regarding the discovery inside the hospital:
"While the situation was quickly identified, these problems must stop. I'm going to fight to hold whoever is responsible accountable. Our veterans deserve nothing but the best."
Congressman John Shimkus of Collinsville, IL sent the following statement:
"I am extremely disappointed in the Department of Veterans Affairs. This is the second major problem at Cochran, which follows past problems not fully recovered from at the Marion VA. Last year the House Veterans Affairs Committee held a special hearing in St. Louis. Former Chairman Filner and current Chairman Miller both attended. Unfortunately, I believe another hearing is not only necessary in St. Louis, but in Washington. Veterans must inform their respective Congressman about problems they encounter, whether at Cochran, Marion, Jefferson Barracks, or other clinics throughout the region. We can only help when we are aware of the problems."
The following is the entire statement from the hospital:
"At John Cochran VA Medical Center, our paramount concern is the safety of the Veterans we serve. The medical center cancelled surgeries February 2 after a regular inspection of surgical instrument trays noted spots on the trays and water stains on at least one surgical instrument. These concerns were caught before any patients were operated on, and this serves as an example of the medical center's heightened patient precaution systems at work. Medical center leadership has inspected all other surgical materials and has had various service vendors at the facility today inspecting and testing Surgical Processing and Distribution equipment to eliminate any potential problems. VA will work with all affected Veterans to reschedule surgical appointments or arrange for alternate care in any urgent cases."
RimaAnn O. Nelson, RN, MPH/HAS
Medical Center Director