ST. LOUIS (AP) — Substandard care at a southern Illinois Veterans Affairs hospital may have contributed to 19 deaths over the past two years, a VA official said Monday as he apologized to affected families and pledged reform.
The hospital in Marion, Ill., initially drew scrutiny over deaths connected to a single surgeon, but two federal reports found fault with five other doctors.
The hospital undertook many surgeries that its staffing or lack of proper surgical expertise made it ill-equipped to handle, and hospital administrators were too slow to respond once problems surfaced, said Dr. Michael Kussman, U.S. veterans affairs undersecretary for health.
"I can't tell you how angry we all are and how frustrated we all are. Nothing angers me more than when we don't do the right thing," Kussman told reporters during a conference call after releasing findings of the VA's investigation and summarizing a separate inspector general's probe.
The VA will help affected families file administrative claims under the VA's disability compensation program, he said. Families also could sue.
...........The VA investigation found that at least nine deaths between October 2006 and March last year were "directly attributable" to substandard care at the Marion hospital, which serves veterans from southern Illinois, southwestern Indiana and western Kentucky.
Kussman declined to identify those cases by patient or doctor, though Rep. Jerry Costello, an Illinois Democrat, said those nine deaths were linked to two surgeons he did not name.
Of an additional 34 cases the VA investigated, 10 patients who died received questionable care that complicated their health, Kussman said. Investigators could not determine whether the care actually caused the deaths.
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This makes Bush's speech like a very bad B movie script.