VA official vows safety at facilities

MIAMI -- The top Veterans Affairs official in Miami said Tuesday that she has taken steps to prevent the kind of problems that exposed patients to contaminated medical equipment at VA hospitals in three states.

Mary Berrocal, director of the Miami VA Healthcare System, said she has hired someone in Miami to supervise training, make sure biomedical equipment works properly there and ensure the problems aren't repeated.

"We have truly scrutinized our systems to ensure that doesn't happen," she said. "We truly, truly are on it ... We've really, really, really expended every effort possible to make sure that this is an isolated situation."

But she declined to discuss specifics about the contamination problems or say how they went undetected for so long.

Five patients have tested positive for HIV, three of them in Miami, and 33 have tested positive for hepatitis since February, when the VA started notifying more than 11,000 people treated at three VA medical centers to get follow-up blood checks because they could have been exposed to infectious body fluids.

The equipment is used for colonoscopies and ear, nose and throat procedures.