Two high-ranking officials of the Department of Veterans Affairs say they support recently introduced legislation requiring hospitals to disclose Legionnaires' and other infectious diseases to state and local officials. But they want to be exempt from paying fines for failing to do so and, oh, yes, they want the mandate to be “voluntary.”
Robert L. Jesse, the VA's deputy undersecretary for health, told a House Veterans Affairs subcommittee on Wednesday that the agency “is committed” to better reporting. Jane Clare Joyner, the VA's assistant general counsel, says fines would be better spent on patient care.
Well, isn't that special. The same VA that appears to have worked overtime to escape accountability — and, dare we say it, gone to great lengths to hide years and years of repeated Legionella bacterial outbreaks at its Pittsburgh-area hospitals that killed people and sickened others — now wants a special dispensation.
Talk about arrogance.
Congress should not budge one fraction of an inch in demanding rigorous infectious disease reporting to all levels of government. And VA officials, especially those overseeing Pittsburgh operations, should feign no surprise should the Justice Department bring criminal charges for such reprehensibly lax, if not reckless, conduct.
Supporters of the reporting requirement call the fines a “compliance motivator.” Given the VA's consistent behavior, we can think of no better “compliance motivator” than an indictment and the threat of prison time.
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