Report: VA officials knew about rare disease risk prior to patient deaths

Concerns continue to rise over care provided at Veterans Affairs hospitals, particularly in Pittsburgh, where patients have been exposed to Legionnaire's disease and new revelations that officials knew about the risk long before five patients died after contracting the illness.

In an exclusive report, CNBC obtained emails that indicate Pittsburgh VA hospital officials knew there was a "60 percent positivity rate of Legionella as far back as 2010."  In addition, a hospital employee provided CNBC with a video he shot in August that shows open sewage, dead bugs, leaky pipes and crumbling infrastructure next to radiation therapy and various areas at the hospital.

The employee, who remained anonymous, told the reporter conditions have been like this for four years. "In the mechanical space adjacent to radiation therapy," he told CNBC. "Here we have a sewage pit, the room stinks and we have a water leak that's been leaking for a while."

Despite these known problems and questions surrounding quality care, a government report indicates VA officials have received huge rewards and bonuses. Around 80 percent of the nearly 22,500 VA physicians received $150 million--about $8,049 per doctor--in incentivized pay, FierceGoverment previously reported. And CNBC pointed out Mike Moreland, the regional director for VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, not only received the government's highest civil service accolade this year but also a $60,000 bonus on top of his $180,000 salary.

The VA told CNBC it is "committed to consistently providing the high quality care our veterans have earned and deserve." But the Pittsburgh location is not the only VA facility under fire. This week, during a House hearing on the VA's medical problems, representatives learned the upstate head of the VHA received $26,000 in bonuses while employees at the Buffalo VA Medical Center improperly reused insulin pens and mishandled patient records, the Buffalo News reported. At least 18 veterans in Buffalo have tested positive for hepatitis as a result of the reuse of the disposable insulin pens, according to the Washington Post.

Furthermore, the Washington Post article states government reports blamed mismanagement for the overdose of one patient and suicides of two others at the VA's Atlanta facility.

Meanwhile,"Ignoring Private Ryan," the latest installment of "Red Tape Diaries" on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, pokes fun at the VA executive pay and bonuses. (Reader beware: The video may not be work appropriate.)

For more:
- here's the CNBC report
- read the Washington Post article
- check out the Buffalo News piece
- watch the Red Tape Diaries video (may not be work appropriate)

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