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Congressman Carnahan Visits VA Facility, Seeks Answers About Sterilization Problem

Congressman Carnahan visits with veterans at the St. Louis VA Medical Center.
Photo by Rachel Lippmann
Congressman Carnahan visits with veterans at the St. Louis VA Medical Center.

By Rachel Lippmann, St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis, Missouri – Democratic Congressman Russ Carnahan was in St. Louis today to hear from veterans about problems with sterilization of dental equipment at the John Cochran veteran's hospital in the city.

The dental clinic at the hospital did not follow Veterans Affairs procedures when sterilizing the equipment. That left 1800 veterans at a low risk of contracting hepatitis B and C and HIV.

Carnahan says he wants to find out why the dental clinic did not exactly follow the VA's sterilization procedure and why the VA took so long to notify the veterans. He says in the beginning, he found it tough to get answers. But he says veteran's secretary Eric Shinseki and Cochran staff have become more responsive.

"I think there's a recognition that they not only have to take care of these veterans impacted and answer their questions, but to the broader question of really gaining the confidence back of veterans and the government, they're going to have to have a transparent process," says Carnahan.

Richard Herbel, a retired Navy veteran, received a letter saying he was at risk and should get tested. He praised the VA for the thorough way it responded.

"This incident has me concerned, I won't kid you about that," says Herbel. "But not so much that I'm going to go off the deep end by any means. I realize that the chances of having something from this are very slim, but I'd like to get the results back as soon as possible."

Carnahan says he will use the information from Herbel and other veterans during a U.S. House committee hearing in St. Louis next week.


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