VA cleanup, hirings to cost $10 million

Sunday, May 5, 2002

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- As part of a nearly $10 million cleanup effort, workers are painting and scrubbing the Veterans Hospital where maggots once infested the noses of two comatose patients.

Forty-six additional workers -- most of them directly involved in housekeeping -- are needed at an annual cost of nearly $2.2 million, according to a hospital action plan. Another $7.8 million is estimated for one-time renovation costs, including replacing wall coverings and painting.

The plan is expected to take 15 to 18 months to complete.

A March 25 report in the Archives of Internal Medicine said maggots were found in the two patients' noses in 1998. Hospital records also show that insect and rodent infestations and other problems with cleanliness persisted for years.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony J. Principi ordered the VA Inspector General to conduct investigations into sanitation conditions at the hospital and to determine if regional administrators in Kansas City had adequately monitored health-care operations.

Patient care areas now are receiving an intensive cleaning from housekeeping staff borrowed from the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Leavenworth. The workers began putting in overtime at the Kansas City hospital last month.

And work began this week to remove decades-old wall coverings from inside the hospital. The coarse material bears a resemblance to burlap and can harbor dust and germs.

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