The Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General went “hunting for bugs” in the middle of the night at two VA kitchens Tuesday after a Conservative Review investigation revealed allegations of an infestation so severe that cockroaches were served in patients’ meals.
The inspectors descended upon Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital in suburban Chicago at 3 a.m. to “conduct an impromptu walk-through of the kitchens,” according to an internal VA email sent to union leaders at 7:24 a.m.
“They were hunting for bugs, I believe that’s what they were doing at 3 o’clock in the morning,” said dietician Kelvin Gilkey, who recently retired from Hines VA Hospital in Hines, Ill., after 33 years. He served as the union steward for the kitchen employees and now works as a volunteer union liaison.
Inspectors looked at kitchens in both the main hospital and the long-term care facility, a separate building on the Hines campus. The officials found outdated food, food that was not labeled correctly or missing labels, and overwhelming filth, said Gilkey, who said he spoke to a long-term care kitchen worker who witnessed part of the inspection. They also followed around a food cart that distributed meals, as news reports had chronicled roaches being served to patients.
“I have been talking about this for a year and a half and no one listened to me until I told [Conservative Review]. Now they are finding out what I said is really the truth,” Gilkey said. After eight hours, the inspectors left, he added.
The Office of Inspector General (OIG) and the director of Hines did not provide any details.
“We will only confirm that the OIG was on site today,” said the agency’s spokesperson, Catherine Gromek.