- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 19, 2014

WEST HAVEN, Conn. (AP) - Federal inspectors found unsanitary conditions, an insect problem and inadequate infection control in operating rooms at the VA Connecticut Healthcare System hospital in West Haven, according to a new report by the Inspector General’s Office of the Veterans Administration.

The agency issued a report Tuesday identifying problems found at the 230-bed hospital during a June inspection. It is recommending that officials in West Haven strengthen policies and procedures for cleaning, implement policies and procedures on infection and insect control, and reassess cleaning staff assignments.

“Although our findings substantiated an increased risk to patients and staff, we found no conclusive evidence that the environment of care deficiencies in the OR resulted in negative patient outcomes,” the report said.

The hospital said in a statement that it is committed to providing veterans with the highest quality care.

“We will continue to work with our team to make improvements to the environment and processes based on the (inspector general) recommendations and VA standards,” the statement said. “It is important to note that many of the issues identified were corrected as noted in the report before the inspectors left the facility or shortly thereafter.”

VA officials inspected the operating room “suite,” which includes seven operating rooms where more than 2,100 surgical procedures were performed during the first three quarters of the 2013 fiscal year. They said the cleanliness of the operating rooms “could not be assured” because of inadequate cleaning staff, poor supervision and training of cleaning staff, and a lack of oversight.

Hospital staff told inspectors they would find debris and dust on the operating room floors under furniture and equipment; oxygen tanks, tubing and other equipment remained on the floor from the final procedure of the previous day; trash was not emptied; and restrooms were not clean.

The report said 19 percent of the cleaning staff is absent on an average workday.

Inspectors also found inadequate safeguards for ensuring patient and employee safety when infectious patients who may require isolation had operating room procedures the same day as noninfectious patients. But officials said the hospital had made in improvements in that area and was updating policies and procedures.

Operating room staff told inspectors that flying and crawling insects have been a problem in the operating rooms for about eight years, and the hospital doesn’t have a policy addressing insect problems.

Before the inspection, the VA said West Haven staff members took an anonymous survey and identified problems with cleaning and infection control.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said he is deeply concerned and troubled by the report and plans to visit the hospital Friday to ask for an update on addressing the issues.

“These alarming failings in essential protections against infection and improper care are simply intolerable,” Blumenthal said. “… Our veterans deserve nothing less than the best, world-class medicine this nation has to offer.”

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