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Opening Statement of Hon. Bob Filner, Ranking Democratic Member, Full Committee on Veterans' Affairs

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Patient safety should always be the VA’s top concern.  Our veterans go to our hospitals because they are one of the best in this country, and obtaining optimal health care should not come, ironically, at the cost of veteran’s health. 

Veterans trust their doctors but what they might not trust is the system, and when they get news that there has been a data breach and their personal information might have been stolen, or news that they are at risk of contracting diseases because staff did not properly sterilize Reusable Medical Equipment (RME), veterans rightfully lose trust. 

Even when these or other incidents come to light, we often find out that they could have been prevented IF hospital administrative officials (or Director or leadership?) would have implemented proper guidance or enforced protocols to avoid significant breakdowns of patient safety. 

What still fails to amaze me is how the VA neglects to effectively respond to these situations.  We still have too many workplace assaults and alarming reports of veterans who may have been infected with diseases such as HIV or hepatitis.

Many questions come to light with the many recent issues at the  Miami VAMC, particularly the veteran suicide two months ago after the veteran was not held the mandatory “72 hour” VA-required evaluation period.  Taxpayers are also curious to hear why this facility is running under a $30 million budget deficit.

While the committee has examined these issues in both the 111th and 112th congress, today we have the opportunity to hear from a hospital director who has witnessed this first hand. 

I hope that the director will be able to provide us insight into her experience with delays in notifying individuals of contamination at the Miami VA medical center, such as what led to the delay in notification to 79 veterans, and what the Miami VAMC is doing to correct previous deficiencies and improve patient safety.

Mr. Chairman, I look forward to this morning’s testimony and I yield back the balance of my time.