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Inspector General cited problems at Northport's VA hospital

Northport VA hospital, June 6, 2016.

Northport VA hospital, June 6, 2016. Credit: Johnny Milano

In its most recent report on Long Island’s only veterans hospital, a federal watchdog found numerous irregularities in medical and other functions run by the the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center at Northport, including faulty air conditioning equipment that failed to ensure air quality in patient areas.

The VA’s Office of Inspector General, in an August 2015, report, also found what it characterized as sloppy attitudes toward cleanliness and failure to monitor the presence of illegal drugs in inpatient substance abuse wards.

Northport Director Philip Moschitta replied to the reportat the time, records show, saying the problems would be fixed no later than the following spring. Problems with the air conditioning system forced the facility to shut down almost all surgeries for more than three months last winter and spring.

The House Veterans Affairs Committee has scheduled an investigatory hearing Tuesday at the Northport hospital to discuss issues such as these.

Committee chairman Jeff Miller (R-Florida) recently wrote a letter to VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald outlining some of the committee’s concerns about Northport, including “sole source” and “one-bid facilities contracts, with a substantial amount of money going out the door for maintenance, but seemingly poor results.”

A Miller spokesman said the letter, written this past July 29, has not been answered.

A spokeswoman for McDonald did not comment on the letter, saying only “We look forward to addressing fully the committee’s concerns...”

The IG’s report, known as a Combined Assessment Program Review, and which examined the hospital’s performance from October 1, 2013, through May 7, 2015, said that clean and dirty items were not kept apart in three of seven patient care areas, and that air quality as provided by ventilation systems in “inpatient areas” did not adhere to applicable guidelines.

“This was a repeat finding from the previous Combined Assessment Program review,” the report said.

The report also said that hospital areas that housed inpatient substance abuse programs failed to check for contraband where patients resided in locked wards in four of the five weeks that IG inspectors reviewed the hospital’s inpatient substance abuse program. The IG reported similar monitoring lapses at a locked ward of the the hospital’s Post Traumatic Stress Disorder program.

In all, the IG report issued 27 “findings” for Northport. A spokesman for Moschitta did not reply Monday to a request for comment.

The report also faulted Northport’s handling of prescription drugs, saying staff sometimes failed to institute unique labeling or storage practices for look-alike and sound-alike medications, and did not have a documented process for labeling drugs that could harm patients when used in error.


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