New Allegations Prompt Concerns at Hines VA

On the heels of the scheduling scandal at Hines VA Hospital, new allegations have surfaced of conditions that threaten patient care--including mold growing on an operating room ceiling and in a storage area for sterile materials.

“This is a brand new OR and there are water leaks,” said whistleblower Germaine Clarno. “And there are employees who are no longer at Hines because they brought these issues up. They were retaliated against.”

The mold, only one of the topics discussed at a meeting at Hines today with Senators Mark Kirk, Dick Durbin, and deputy White House Chief of Staff Rob Nabors.

The news comes as NBC 5 learns exclusively that the VA system has seen a spike in what it calls “adverse events” or veterans dying or being seriously injured under the care of the department of Veterans Affairs.

Last year, Hines had four adverse events. One Florida hospital had 31.

According to Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs committee, one adverse event is too many.

“The problem is that VA is not doing what it is supposed to do on a routine basis,” Miller said. Unfortunately, we have seen many, many institutional disclosures that have had to be given to families. There appear to be places that they are not following the rules that they, themselves, have set.”

Kirk says the root of the problem at Hines VA Hospital is what he calls a “culture of corruption” set by Hines Director Joan Ricard, who also attended the Friday morning meeting.

“I suggested to her that she should get a criminal lawyer to defend herself against the coming FBI investigation that I am going to recommend,” Kirk said.

While Durbin would not go as far as demanding her removal, he is demanding more accountability at the VA.

“If anyone has been guilty of lying and wrongdoing in the VA, they have got to go,” he said. “I don’t care who they are or at what level.”

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