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Opening Statement of Hon. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Representative in Congress from the State of Florida

Thank you Chairman Miller, Ranking Member Filner, and members of the Committee here today. And once again, thank you for your leadership on this issue.

It seems that each time I come to one of these hearings, I find myself saying the same thing: we continue to travel down the same path;

Ever since this shameful failure by the Miami VA Healthcare System came to light over two years ago, we have been reassured time and time again, even in this very committee room, by the VA that appropriate actions were being implemented to prevent this from ever happening again.

However, as of the latest report I have read, dated August 2011, there is still a widespread failure within the Miami facility in its handling of RME’s, or Reusable Medical Equipment.

While we were told in May of this year that the VA was making efforts to improve its procedures for handling RME’s, the VA’s Office of Inspector General was discovering a different story.

Their review, which took place in April of this year, concluded that there was still a 50% failure rate for properly handling RME’s;

And that the Miami VA facility had still not implemented Standard Operating Procedures for sterilization, consistent with the manufacturer’s instructions, for half of its RME’s.

These are not the only ongoing issues at the Miami VA Medical Center.

This OIG review highlights many deficiencies within the facility in the areas of patient safety, cleanliness, as well as many others.

What is going on in the Miami VA?

I fear that this problem is not just isolated within Miami either.

This is shameful.

We owe our Veterans much more than this.

They served our nation bravely, and this is how we repay them?

We need a drastic review of the processes in place.

We need to make sure there are proper procedures in place; that we have qualified employees who have received all of the proper training; that we make sure that our veterans get the quality care they deserve – and that they do not have to fear for their safety;

We need to make sure that there is some oversight on how these changes are being effected; to ensure that all VA Medical Centers are compliant to these procedures;

We need to make sure that we have the right kind of leadership in place that can manage these large facilities, with the right kind of experience; and we need to make sure that there is a clear line of communication, and those who are responsible for any shortcomings are held accountable.

We need to make sure that we will not be back here in this committee room again in 6 months asking yet again: What went wrong?

Again, I thank the Chairman and the Ranking Member for their leadership on this issue.

Thank you.