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Congressional committees want answers on Tomah VA hospital

By   /   December 7, 2016  /   News  /   No Comments

Part 37 of 40 in the series Tomah VA Scandal

MADISON, Wis. — Administrators at the troubled Tomah Veterans Affairs Medical Center are answering a lot of tough questions this week from congressional committees.

Lawmakers want to know how a dentist was allowed to practice with equipment that put nearly 600 veterans at risk of contracting HIV, hepatitis C and other infections.

AP file photo

QUESTIONS FOR TOMAH: Several congressional committees have a lot of questions for the Tomah VA Medical Center following some troubling incidents at the troubled hospital.

They want to know why a veteran jumped out the window at the hospital while under the care of the embattled Tomah Veterans Assistance Foundation.

And they will most likely want to know why a 54-year-old woman is dead after ingesting multiple drugs on the hospital grounds.

Tomah VAMC Public Affairs Officer Matthew Gowan tells Wisconsin Watchdog that hospital officials are “doing multiple congressional briefings” this week to explain the fact that 592 veterans may have been exposed to infections because a dentist failed to follow standard infection control procedure for a year.

The dentist has since resigned.

Gowan reiterated that the health care provider’s resignation “does not mean accountability measures are going away.” The Tomah VA Medical Center spokesman said because the dentist resigned during a summary review hearing notice, he will automatically be reported to the national physician databank that includes malpractice records.

“We are going to be reporting that today,” Gowan said Tuesday.

But the veterans hospital will not release the dentist’s name. Gowan said the facility is bound by privacy laws.

Officials also are not identifying the name of the veteran who leaped out the third-story window of the medical center’s Building 407 last week.

Don Roach, executive director of the Veterans Assistance Program, had no comment on the “reason for the individual’s actions.” He would only say that the veteran was transported to Tomah Memorial Hospital.”

A source from the VAMC told Wisconsin Watchdog last week that the injuries were not life-threatening and that the man was in stable condition.

Victoria Brahm, acting director of the VA medical center, sent an email notifying employees of the incident.

“Early this morning a veteran from the Veterans Assistance Foundation program jumped out of the third floor window at the VAF day room,” she wrote in an email obtained by Wisconsin Watchdog. “A medical emergency was called and the Veteran was sent via ambulance to Tomah Memorial Hospital where the Veteran is recovering from injuries sustained.”

On Tuesday, Gowan said he did not know the name of the veteran or his condition.

“The last I heard he was at a hospital in La Crosse,” he said. “I wouldn’t be able to release it anyway. Any veteran coming into the area, into the medical center or our outpatient clinic has the expectation of privacy.”

RELATED: Tomah VA employee: ‘We have forgotten who we work for’

The VAMC and the foundation are left to explain the death of 54-year-old Linda Purcell, who died Sept. 25 while staying at the foundation’s homeless shelter leased from the hospital.

An autopsy report determined the cause of death was a “combined toxicoligic process involving multiple drugs,” meaning Purcell took multiple medications at once, according to news reports.

The reports cast a wider shadow on a government-run medical center known as “Candy Land” for its practice of overprescribing opiod painkillers.

35-year-old Marine veteran died in August 2014 of a toxic cocktail of prescribed drugs while at the medical center.

Part of 40 in the series Tomah VA Scandal
  1. After damaging silence, Baldwin now calls for probe of troubled VA center
  2. Legal expert says U.S. Sen Tammy Baldwin is in full ‘damage control’
  3. Baldwin aide breaks silence, alleges senator engaged in ‘coverup’
  4. Baldwin’s public relations team kicks into high gear following ethics complaint
  5. Ethics watchdog urges Senate committee to investigate Baldwin
  6. Tammy Baldwin’s political fixer is helping Hillary attack voter ID
  7. Senate committee asking if FBI missed the call in veteran’s death at VA
  8. When lawmakers failed Wisconsin’s veterans
  9. Is political pressure behind Lin Ellinghuysen’s differing accounts on VA memo?
  10. Bernie Sanders failed to act in deadly VA scandal, whistleblower says
  11. Does government union chief’s threat show AFGE’s hand on veterans care?
  12. What would Russ Feingold’s 1992 self say to the 2015 version?
  13. Ad attacking Feingold asserts veterans died because of ‘politicians who looked the other way’
  14. Feingold’s campaign caught up in VA scandal memo war
  15. PolitiFact Wisconsin trusts Russ Feingold to deliver its facts
  16. Sources: Ron Kind received call from Jason Simcakoski not long before Marine’s tragic death
  17. Captain Campaign Finance Reform, Russ Feingold, changes ‘dark money’ tune
  18. Baldwin talks transparency while keeping her secrets in Tomah VA scandal
  19. Ron Kind knew about Tomah VA abuse years before the story broke
  20. Ron Kind now solving Tomah VA scandal one press release at a time
  21. Tammy Baldwin silent on her failures as she blasts Tomah VA medical center
  22. Tomah VA whistleblower says he’s getting pressure from unhappy Dems
  23. Feingold’s facts fail again in face of Tomah scandal
  24. Senate field hearing to shine more light on Tomah VA scandal
  25. Tomah VA supervisor accused of misconduct gets promoted
  26. Senate hearing to look deeper into scandal-plagued Tomah VA hospital
  27. Kind flees questions, Senate committee turns up heat on Tomah VA hospital scandal
  28. Report: Tomah VA hospital story is one of ‘systemic failures’
  29. Tomah VA hospital whistleblower: ‘It will not change’
  30. Ron Kind breaks silence on call from veteran victim at Tomah VA hospital
  31. VA union holds rally to save itself, Tomah whistleblower says
  32. Sound familiar? Illinois Rep. Tammy Duckworth accused of retaliation at VA
  33. Emails say Tomah VA patient reached out to Feingold, Kind, in 2008 about abuse
  34. Johnson: Hold accountable those who put Tomah veterans at risk of HIV, hepatitis
  35. Veteran jumps out of third-floor window at Tomah VA hospital
  36. Tomah VA employee: ‘We have forgotten who we work for’
  37. Congressional committees want answers on Tomah VA hospital
  38. Senators ask Pence, Trump transition team, to hold troubled VA accountable
  39. Veterans advocate: VA hospitals’ ‘improvement’ doesn’t tell whole story
  40. Tomah VA Medical Center’s ‘Candy Man’ stripped of license

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M.D. Kittle is bureau chief of Wisconsin Watchdog and First Amendment Reporter for Watchdog.org. Kittle is a 25-year veteran of print, broadcast and online media. He is the recipient of several awards for journalism excellence from The Associated Press, Inland Press, the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association, and others. Kittle's extensive series on Wisconsin's unconstitutional John Doe investigations was the basis of a 2014 documentary on Glenn Beck's TheBlaze. His work has been featured in Town Hall, Fox News, NewsMax, and other national publications, and his reporting has been cited by news outlets nationwide. Kittle is a fill-in talk show host on the Jay Weber Show and the Vicki McKenna Show in Milwaukee and Madison. Contact Kittle at [email protected]