VA critics to testify in D.C.
Two outspoken critics of the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System will testify in Washington on the hospital system's fatal Legionnaires' disease outbreak.
Former VA officials Dr. Victor L. Yu and Janet E. Stout, both well-known Pittsburgh experts in Legionnaires' prevention, agreed to appear as key witnesses in a Feb. 5 investigative hearing under the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, they confirmed. Yu said they received invitations from U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, the Colorado Republican who leads an investigative subcommittee.
U.S. Reps. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills, and Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, requested the hearing.
Stout and Yu founded the Special Pathogens Laboratory, Uptown, after the Department of Veterans Affairs closed their former lab in 2006 at the VA hospital in Oakland. They said little Monday about their planned Washington appearance, but both have argued the Legionnaires' outbreak last fall was preventable.
“By choosing the witnesses, the chairman (Coffman) obviously tilts the testimony” in a congressional hearing, said former U.S. Rep. Lee H. Hamilton, an Indiana Democrat who served 34 years. “It's done all the time. You get the witnesses who say what you want said.”
A complete witness list for the hearing was not available on Monday and Coffman's office did not respond to questions.
Lawmakers also should hear from the VA and experts in Legionnaires' prevention and water treatment, Doyle and Murphy said. The VA's testimony “will be submitted in advance of the hearing,” VA spokesman David Cowgill said.
“VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System remains committed to delivering the high-quality care our veterans have earned and deserve,” Cowgill wrote via email.
Coffman, the subcommittee chairman, “is really not about politics or grandstanding,” said Seth Lynn, director of the Center for Second Service at George Washington University.
Rather, he “tends to care about the right things — making sure veterans are taken care of,” Lynn said.
Doyle and Murphy said they expect the 10 a.m. gathering to focus on water-purification standards, whether the Pittsburgh VA followed those standards and how to prevent repeat episodes.
Tests found five patients in the Pittsburgh VA contracted Legionnaires', a waterborne form of pneumonia, inside the hospital system. Most recovered, but the Allegheny County Health Department reported one patient died of the ailment. County health officials have not released the name of the deceased.
The family of World War II veteran William E. Nicklas, 87, of Hampton believes his death on Nov. 23 was the fatality the health department confirmed. He died of Legionnaires' at the Oakland hospital about a week after the VA confirmed the outbreak publicly.
Illinois manufacturer LiquiTech Environmental Solutions reported finding deficiencies in the Oakland hospital's water systems nearly 12 months before the VA revealed the outbreak, tentatively tied to contaminated tap water. The hospital reported 29 total Legionnaires' cases between January 2011 and November 2012, though “extensive reviews” found only five began within the facility, according to the VA.
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.
- Pittsburgh City Council unanimous in opposition to bill that would change how Pa. defines tax-exempt status
- Pipelines key to growth in shale industry
- NTSB: Better oversight needed to prevent natural gas pipeline accidents
- 3-D images to help police in Western Pa. navigate terror, hostage scenes
- Aging weather satellite may be leaving forecasters with a large blind spot
- Pittsburgh to consider measure to give city employees 6 weeks of paid parental leave
- Mt. Lebanon awaits Pennsylvania Game Commission approval to corral, kill deer
- Newsmaker: Rick McIntyre
- Owner of Italian Village Pizza stores in Western Pennsylvania gets house arrest for tax evasion
- Allegheny County assistant public defender Capone charged with lying to court staff
- Long-term solution for wastewater disposal eludes shale gas industry