#VAFail – OIG confirmed cockroaches in VA kitchen, veterans’ food
The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee is scheduled to mark up the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act in an afternoon session today, and that can’t happen soon enough.
Last year, whistleblower reports came from the Chicago-area Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital claiming cockroaches had infested the hospital’s kitchen and were even on occasion served in veterans’ food. Since then, Hines has not managed to stay out of the spotlight. A few months later, a whistleblower claimed that unclaimed veteran bodies were left to decompose in the Hines morgue without proper burial. Just last week, the Daily Caller reported that Hines has often served its patients raw and expired food.
Hines’ reputation worsened yesterday when the Office of Inspector General (OIG) confirmed the earliest of those whistleblower complaints – cockroaches in the kitchen. This report found that one: cockroaches were “persistently present in and around the food service area;” two, the cockroaches made their way onto patients’ food trays; and three, “leadership knew about the unsanitary conditions [cockroaches] in the NFS and did not resolve the problem.” Reports of cockroaches in the kitchen go back years between six reports to leadership between March 2011 and December 2015. As an aside, Sharon Helman, the director who oversaw the Phoenix wait list scandal, was the director of the Hines VA during that time.
A kitchen overrun with cockroaches that end up in hospital patients’ food is unacceptable, as is facility leadership ignoring the problem. This is an example of the need for both accountability and choice at the VA – accountability for the leadership that allowed unsanitary conditions and infestation in the kitchen, and choice for veterans so they’re not forced to use a hospital with so little regard and respect.