‘Pure devastation’: VA center reports positive hepatitis, HIV tests due to unsterilized equipment

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Published: Feb. 25, 2022 at 7:11 PM EST
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DUBLIN, Ga. (WALB) - Carl Vinson Veterans Administration Medical Center officials say Friday, they have had patients test positive for possible infection of hepatitis or HIV.

More than 4,000 veteran patients were informed surgical instruments used on them were not sterilized properly. Veterans and their families tell us they are overwhelmed with worry.

“Pure devastation. Sick to my stomach. Sadness.”

Rachel Heath’s father, Larry Heath of Nashville, received a letter from the Carl Vinson Medical Center. It says the medical equipment used on him was not properly sterilized. Center officials say 4,594 veteran patients possibly could have been infected and urged them to be tested for two types of hepatitis and HIV.

Larry Heath served in Vietnam and his daughter says he has received treatment for Agent Orange maladies, along with cancer, heart attack, and stroke.

“This is an outrage. That it’s 2022 and veterans are still being treated like this. For negligence,” said Rachel.

The medical director of the Carl Vinson Medical Center says a member of their staff reported that all steps for cleaning medical instruments were not being made. The procedures were stopped, and veterans were told they needed to be tested.

“So people have tested positive so far?” medical director, Dr. Manuel Davila said. “Well, at this point, I don’t know the number, but yes. Absolutely.”

Now more testing is being done, although the medical center says the risk of infection is very low.

Carl Vinson VA Center Medical Director, Dr. Manuel Davila
Carl Vinson VA Center Medical Director, Dr. Manuel Davila(Carl Vinson VA Medical Center)

“We will make it right. We do own it. We are transparent about it,” Dr. Davila said.

Larry has been tested. Now they have to wait for the results.

“We have to wait two weeks and it could be life-changing. We don’t know what we are about to face. No one does.”

The medical center has brought in another sterilization team from the Augusta VA Hospital, while the Carl Vinson staff is being re-trained. Officials want to reassure their patients.

“And it certainly a tremendous honor for us to serve our veterans. Because they have given so much, for us. And we certainly want to give them all that we can as well. And that needs to be no compromise on safety. Zero harm. That’s our goal,” Dr. Davila said

But Heath says her father and family have been very disappointed with their treatment since the 1980s at Carl Vinson. And now Rachel wants all veterans to contact their veteran organizations and politician’s offices demanding improvements.

Rachel Heath
Rachel Heath(Rachel Heath)

“If you don’t use your voice, nothing is going to change. There is power in numbers. It’s just time that veterans are treated with the respect they deserve,” Rachel said.

Dr. Davila says only about one thousand of the veterans they sent this letter have been tested. He urges all the veterans contacted to be tested, for their safety.

The Carl Vinson Medical Center has set up a communication center to answer questions for veterans. It’s (478) 274-5400 if you have questions.

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