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VA audit finds bats, roof leaks and mold

March 22, 2007|From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The 1,400 health clinics and hospitals run by the Department of Veterans Affairs are beset by maintenance problems such as mold, leaking roofs and even a colony of bats, an internal review says.

The investigation, ordered two weeks ago by VA Secretary Jim Nicholson, is the first major review of the facilities conducted since the disclosure of squalid conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

A copy of the report was provided to the Associated Press.

Democrats called the report the latest evidence of an outdated system unable to handle the influx of wounded troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Who's been minding the store?" asked Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. "They keep putting Band-Aids on problems, when what the agency needs is major triage."

The review was conducted by directors of individual VA facilities around the country and compiled in a 94-page report to Nicholson. It found that 90% of the 1,100 problems cited were deemed routine in nature: worn-out carpet, peeling paint, mice sightings and dead bugs at VA centers.

The other 10% were considered serious and included mold spreading in patient care areas. Eight cases were so troubling that they required immediate attention and follow-up action.

Some of the more striking problems were found at a clinic in White City, Ore., where officials reported roof leaks and large colonies of bats that sometimes flew into the building.

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