Senate committee OKs bill requiring VA to disclose Legionnaires', other outbreaks
The Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs has reached bipartisan agreement on proposed legislation to toughen disease reporting standards at veterans hospitals nationwide in response to a fatal Legionnaires' disease outbreak in Pittsburgh.
Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, introduced a proposal in May. The outbreak in the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System apparently went undetected for nearly two years. At least five veterans died, and 16 others were sickened, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found.
“No one piece of legislation can bring back a loved one or fully account for the pain that these families experienced in the last few years,” Casey said in announcing the agreement on Friday. “What this legislation will do is take significant steps toward reforming VA policies so what occurred at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System never happens again.”
Under the legislation, called the Improving Quality of Care Within the Department of Veterans Affairs Act of 2013, VA hospitals would need to follow disease disclosure standards that apply to state-licensed hospitals across the country. Pennsylvania requires most hospitals to report many infectious-disease cases, including Legionnaires' cases, to state health officials within 24 hours of diagnosis.
But a Tribune-Review investigation found VA hospitals run by the federal government typically are not licensed by state health officials. The Trib found that VA Pittsburgh officials delayed notifying the Department of Health's reporting system in at least one-third of the outbreak-linked Legionnaires' cases in 2011 and 2012.
Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., is the lead GOP sponsor of the disease reporting legislation, which would hold regional VA directors accountable for disclosing certain infectious diseases and require an independent review of the structure of VA medical centers.
Asked for comment, national VA spokesman Phil Budahn emphasized an agency directive in June that orders voluntary compliance with local and state disease reporting rules where VA hospitals operate.
Lawmakers including Reps. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, and Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills, have introduced similar legislation in the House. Casey hopes House and Senate members can craft and pass a unified bill by December, spokesman John Rizzo said.
Murphy and Doyle expressed optimism that the House will move swiftly.
“I'm hopeful that the action in the Senate provides some momentum for similar action over here,” Doyle said.
Adam Smeltz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5676 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penguins notebook: Shootouts becoming a concern
- Protesters demonstrate against Mt. Lebanon deer culling program
- Tyler’s 20th, ‘A Spool of Blue Thread,’ is a miracle of sorts
- Dark satire ‘Welcome to Braggsville’ targets race, gender
- Allderdice boys advance to PIAA tournament
- Huge, ancient quasar could alter theories on black holes
- Ex-Brewers star Hart hopes to prove to Pirates he still can play
- Greensburg pair jailed in convenience store robbery
- Men become focus of stores’ personal service efforts
- Rostraver police investigating alleged sexual misconduct between Ringgold HS employee, student
- Blackhawk girls take down South Fayette to repeat as WPIAL Class AAA champs