Sunday, June 21, 2009

Rogue Cancer Unit at VA hospital botches 92 of 116 cancer treatments 
... And covers it up.

Had the government responded more aggressively, it might have uncovered a rogue cancer unit at the hospital, one that operated with virtually no outside scrutiny and botched 92 of 116 cancer treatments over a span of more than six years — and then kept quiet about it, according to interviews with investigators, government officials and public records.

The team continued implants for a year even though the equipment that measured whether patients received the proper radiation dose was broken. The radiation safety committee at the Veterans Affairs hospital knew of this problem but took no action, records show.


The 92 implant errors resulted from a systemwide failure in which none of the safeguards that were supposed to protect veterans from poor medical care worked, an examination by The New York Times has found.

Peer review, a staple of every good hospital, in which colleagues examine one another’s work, did not exist in the unit. The V.A.’s radiation safety program; the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which regulates the use of all nuclear materials; and the Joint Commission, a group that accredited the hospital, all failed to intervene; either their inspections had been limited or they had not acted decisively upon finding problems.

Over all, the implant program lacked a “safety culture,” the nuclear commission found. Dr. Kao and other members of his team, the commission said, were not properly supervised or trained in what constitutes a substandard implant and the need to report it. Dr. Kao declined to comment for this article.

Quick! Let's put government employees in charge of everyone's medical care, right away!

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