(WKBW release) New York Congressman Chris Collins on Thursday provided an update on the reuse of insulin pens at the Buffalo VA and the resulting possible exposure of 700+ veterans to HIV and Hepatitis.
According to a news release from Collins' office:
Figures shared with our office today are as follows:
• Of the 716 veterans possibly exposed, 174 passed away prior to the alert
• Of those living, 394 veterans have been tested
• 12 tested positive for HEP B (VA says there is no way of knowing if this exposure is how the patient contracted disease)
• 6 tested positive for HEP C (VA says there is no way of knowing if this exposure is how the patient contracted disease)
• 27 results still pending
• VA still trying to contact 94 veterans to get tested
• 26 refused to be tested
Congressman Brian Higgins issued a statement on the matter Thursday. It reads:
"The report by the VA Office of Inspector General is alarming. It reveals a frightening level of incompetence by VA personnel, including preventable bureaucratic inefficiencies that delayed important information from reaching patients. It was a total systemic breakdown."
"The report makes several recommendations to improve health care provider training on medical devices, to enhance internal oversight and inspections, and to inform patients and the public more expeditiously when an error occurs. These recommendations -- and more -- must be adopted."
"Western New York's congressional delegation will remain united in its resolve to ensure that these reforms are implemented immediately, so that this deplorable incident is not repeated in Buffalo or anywhere across the country. And we will ensure that the veterans who were impacted receive the very best care possible."
"Our veterans put their lives on the line to defend the United States. A good and grateful nation owes them far better than this."
The VA also issued a statement Thursday. It reads:
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is committed to providing the care and benefits Veterans have earned and deserve. VA concurs with the recommendations of the recently released Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) Healthcare Inspections Division on the VA Western New York Healthcare System (VAWNYHS). VAWNYHS discovered and identified this issue, took proactive steps to notify patients, performed an investigation, and ensured the inappropriate practice was stopped immediately. Following the issuance of this report, VAWNYHS is conducting further reviews of policies and procedures to ensure inappropriate actions are prevented in the future.
The epidemiologic study of infection is still underway by the Office of Public Health. 85% of Veterans that may have been affected by the insulin pen have completed testing to date. The remainder have scheduled testing at their convenience, been tested but results are not complete, or not responded after multiple attempts.
With regard to newly found possible infection, 14 Veterans were identified for resolved infection Hepatitis B. Six were identified with Hepatitis C; 4 have cleared the virus and 2 have evidence of chronic disease. There are no HIV positive results. It should be emphasized that those positives did not necessarily get infected by their exposure.
We may just be detecting an infection that was acquired years ago unrelated to insulin pens.
VA Western New York Healthcare System is committed to provide the highest quality care to Veterans with testing, treatment and counseling.