DC

Burst Pipe Flooded DC VA Medical Center Earlier This Month

The incident is the latest in a series of mishaps that have forced the delays of patient procedures, surgeries and office visits at the troubled DC VA Medical Center

A burst pipe flooded five levels of the Washington DC VA Medical Center earlier this month, forcing the postponement of more than a dozen outpatient procedures and the transfer of a patient who was being treated in the intensive care unit.

Agency records and sources with knowledge of the incident said the incident occurred the morning of May 18 and created a two-hour power outage in a medical center pharmacy.

The flooding was triggered by a burst air cooling pipe in the B wing of the medical center’s fourth floor, according to agency records. The flooding spread to other levels in the facility. Crews shut down power to reduce the risk from electrical panels.

“The leak was repaired shortly after it was discovered, and all of the water was removed from the impacted areas,” said a statement issued by an agency spokeswoman to the News4 I-Team.

The intensive care patient was transferred to another area of the medical center during the flood, according to agency records.

The agency said a $6 million HVAC replacement process is planned to upgrade the medical center’s heating and air condition systems. The timetable for completion is unclear. The agency said a contractor is expected to be chosen before October.

Agency records obtained by the News4 I-Team show a backlog of nearly $70 million in heating, refrigeration, duct, exhaust and ventilation repairs and upgrades. 

The incident is the latest in a series of mishaps that have forced the delays of patient procedures, surgeries and office visits at the troubled DC VA Medical Center on Irving Street in Washington. The medical center serves nearly 100,000 veterans each year and is a flagship facility of the national VA system. But the medical center is also under heavy scrutiny from internal inspectors, Congressional leaders and veteran watchdog groups.

A series of recent federal inspections by the VA’s Office of Inspector General and separate investigations by the News4 I-Team have revealed a series of supply shortages, mismanagement and failures that have led to the postponements of patient procedures and potentially unsafe conditions inside. A February 2018 I-Team report revealed the medical center is considered “high risk and low performing” by agency leaders and has been ordered to undergo monthly progress reports until improvements are made.

According to Congressional testimony earlier this month, a supply shortage created the interruption of a patient’s surgery, after the patient was placed under anesthesia. After the supply issue was discovered, medical staff ended anesthesia, woke the patient and notified him or her about the failure.

A 2017 report by the I-Team revealed nine surgeries were cancelled in one day in November due to concerns about the sterilization and safety of the surgical equipment at the facility.

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