Internal Veterans Affairs emails and documents, totaling nearly 7,000 pages, reveal a contradiction in the testimony given by leaders at the Department of Veterans Affairs during a congressional investigation regarding the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak which caused at least 6 deaths and 16 illnesses.
The correspondence covers the time during and just after the outbreak that lasted from February 2011 to November 2012.
In an email to VA Pittsburgh Associate Director, Lovetta Ford, on Nov. 21, 2012, shortly after announcing the outbreak, former Regional VA Director Michael Moreland described the experience as “a good learning event for all of us – going well so far.” Just two days after this email was sent, William Nicklas, the last known victim of the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak died at the VA’s University Drive Hospital.
Other facts revealed through the email correspondence:
- VA Pittsburgh director learned of the presence of Legionella in the water system in November 2012 and that there were attempts to kill the bacteria by super-heating the water system.
- Water samples were rarely and inconsistently collected for testing
- Water disinfection system was improperly implemented by workers
The VA emails also show that some leaders had a weak understanding of the magnitude of the Legionnaires’ outbreak even months after it was thought to have ended. Moreland was reported to have written: “We had zero cases in the summer of 2012.”
U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs said “Employees and executives who allowed patients to slip through the cracks must be held accountable, as should anyone who intentionally misled the public, their superiors at VA or the Congress of the United States.”
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