When it comes to “reform” at the nation’s largest healthcare delivery system – which is government-run, by the way – change doesn’t come easy, or at all.
New reports have surfaced that there is a vermin and insect infestation in the kitchen of a suburban Chicago Veterans Administration hospital, that is so severe, that cockroaches appear routinely across countertops as cooks attempt to prepare meals for patients. And some employees, according to Conservative Review, have even claimed that roaches have appeared in patients’ meals.
The problem has become so bad that it has attracted the attention of a U.S. senator from Illinois, who is now demanding to know what the problem-plagued VA intends to do to fix it.
The infestation at the Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital in Hines, Ill., is just the latest in a series of scandals involving the VA throughout the Obama administration, which has included allegations of patient abuse, incompetence, and the senseless deaths of veterans who were forced to wait months and years for appointments.
“The workers try to brush the cockroaches off the counters, but the bugs get in the food,” said Germaine Clarno, a social worker at the hospital. Clarno is the local AFGE union president, and has been working with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel as a whistleblower exposing secret appointment wait lists.
‘It’s been like this for years …’
What’s more, Clarno says that she witnessed the problem firsthand about three years ago, when she watched as roaches that were crawling in a patient’s dinner plate were brought into the patient’s room. She said she sent the food back before the vet had a chance to see it, and then paid for a pizza delivery to the room from an outside restaurant.
“It’s been like this for years, ever since anyone can remember,” Clarno said.
Conservative Review reported further:
“Dietetic technician Kelvin Gilkey has been a VA employee for 33 years. He recounted how PTSD-traumatized veterans in the mental health unit were served cockroaches on food trays on three different occasions last year. One veteran, in his 20s, became enraged and started swearing in disbelief, demanding to be discharged. But he would languish there another 28 days, sickened every time he had to eat a meal.”
“I apologized and said I would provide him with a special tray but he refused to eat,” Gilkey said. “He went hungry for a couple of days until I convinced him to eat. He even refused to come out of his room and socialize with anyone. I told him I would take care of him.”
A second veteran also refused to eat for a few days, but was fortunate enough to be discharged within a week. And a third just accepted the fact that roaches were in his food, said Gilkey.
In some instances, kitchen employees refused to report to work in the kitchen over fears that they would bring some of the insects to their own homes. At present, the staff is down 25 positions, and food service funding has been diverted to pay for overtime in the medical ward, to fix a secret medical waiting list scandal that surfaced a couple of years ago, according to Gilkey, who serves as the SEIU union steward for food service employees.
When chronic under-funding fails to meet demand
“There’s no one in the kitchen to clean,” he added. “A lot of times you have the cook, in his uniform, going upstairs to serve the meals in the hospital. He’s walking into rooms with MRSA, infections, and everything else.”
In recent days Clarno attempted to visit the kitchen, but supervisory staff would not allow her in, and called VA Police officers to escort her out. Employees who were there implored her to keep up her investigation, and said that the kitchen did not have funding or staff to deal with the infestation.
One of the VA’s biggest critics is U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois, a Republican who is demanding that employees responsible for the waiting list scandal be fired. In a letter to the VA in recent days, Kirk demanded to know what the agency is doing “to ensure that veterans’ food is handled with the highest standards of cleanliness.”
If you ever wanted to know what happens in socialized medicine when government funding routinely fails to rise to the level of need, this is about as good an example as you’re ever going to get.