The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs could soon be required to undergo consistent regulatory health inspections of its hospital kitchens and report the findings to Congress, according to a Senate bill introduced today.
The RAID Act – Requiring Accountability and Inspections for Dining Service – would subject the VA to the same health standards as private hospital kitchens, which includes shutting down the facility until problems are corrected. The bill was introduced by Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., after a Conservative Review investigation revealed allegations of a cockroach infestation so massive that bugs were reportedly being served in food at a Chicago area VA hospital.
“The senate is living up to its responsibility by telling the VA that veterans’ facilities are not cockroach colonies,” Kirk said. ”We wouldn’t have a country without our veterans and their hospitals should be the gold standard. Instead, we have everyone pointing fingers in different directions as to who is responsible.”
Kirk’s office has been trying for weeks to determine which health agencies – if any – regularly inspect VA hospital kitchens and what punishments are imposed. He said he was unable to determine any.
VA spokesperson James Hutton provided a list of agencies that included three names of internal VA entities, one safety inspection company, one agency that looks only at long-term care facilities, and the Joint Commission – a non-profit that provides accreditations.
The VA did not provide logs, reports, or any data outlining inspection schedules and any remediation efforts. Past Joint Commission logs show inspections pertaining to medical issues. Kirk doesn’t believe that they have focused on food safety up to this point.
Union officers at Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital in Hines, Ill., say they have never seen any inspectors at the facility and point to the kitchen roach problem that has steadily worsened during the past two years. At 3 a.m. Wednesday investigators from the VA’s Office of Inspector General descended on Hines’ two kitchens in a surprise inspection, an internal email showed.