August 23, 2017

Senator Gillibrand Calls For Inspector General Investigation Into The Buffalo Veterans Affairs Medical Center

The Honorable David J. Shulkin

Secretary of Veterans Affairs

810 Vermont Avenue Northwest

Washington, D.C. 20571

 

Dear Secretary Shulkin,

I am writing to express my deep concern in learning that 526 patients of the Buffalo Veterans Affairs Medical Center in New York may be at risk for infection due to improperly cleaned medical scopes.  By failing to follow the proper disinfection process outlined by the equipment’s manufacturer, VA personnel exposed these Veterans to the transmission of a range of serious illnesses.  In the immediate future, the Department of Veterans Affairs owes the patients at risk immediate medical support and full transparency in the outcomes of internal inquiries into the matter.  I also believe a thorough examination of this situation by the Department’s Inspector General is necessary to provide a full accounting of the facts and prevent future failings by the Buffalo VAMC. 

This is not the first time that we have heard of grave health concerns resulting from practices at the Buffalo VAMC.  In 2014, the Office of Special Counsel sent a letter to President Obama outlining problems in safely sterilizing medical equipment.  In 2012, the facility acknowledged a similar instance to the current situation when medical personnel re-used single-use insulin pens and potentially exposed hundreds of patients to infection.  A 2013 Department of Veterans Affairs Office of the Inspector General report found that medical supplies were mishandled at the Buffalo VAMC.  Given these repeat failures, the Department of Veterans Affairs has provided Buffalo VAMC patients with little reason to trust medical personnel in providing safe and reliable healthcare. 

Our men and women in uniform—past, present, and future—deserve a Department of Veterans Affairs worthy of their sacrifices.  The Department carries a sacred obligation to provide every Veteran it serves with exemplary healthcare regardless of his or her zip code.  I trust that you will lead the Department to swiftly address the ongoing problems at the Buffalo Veterans Affairs Medical Center and ensure no other Veterans—in New York and across the country—face a similar risk of infection.  As New York’s Senator, I plan to stay closely engaged in this matter to ensure the integrity of medical care at the Buffalo VAMC.  I respectfully request your acknowledgement of this letter and my request for an investigation by the VA Inspector General no later than Friday, August 25, 2017. 

Sincerely,

Kirsten Gillibrand