Veteranclaims’s Blog

May 6, 2010

VAOIG: Philly-VA Unplugged Cancer Monitoring Computer Un-Noticed for over a Year

Full Article at: Unplugged VA computer affects treatment of cancer patients

By Bob Brewin 05/04/2010

It took officials at a Veterans Affairs Department hospital in Philadelphia more than a year to learn that a computer used to assess patient’s response to treatments for prostate cancer had been unplugged, delaying assessments, according to an inspector general report released on Monday.

The computer ran an application called the VariSeed treatment planning system, which oncologists use to focus radiation treatment on cancer hotspots. But the computer was disconnected from the hospital’s network in November 2006 when a vendor and a VA information technology technician unplugged it from a jack that linked it to the main network so they could connect another piece of hardware.

That year, VA clinicians performed 17 procedures to insert radioactive seeds that treat prostate cancer. Without the network connection, X-rays showing the location of radioactive seeds could not be transferred to the VariSeed computer, making it difficult for doctors to determine the patients’ response to treatment, the inspector general found. No patient was injured by the error.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on Tuesday that 38 veterans or their wives have filed claims against the hospital for alleged injuries. Two have filed federal lawsuits.

The inspector general report comes on the heels of a fine the Nuclear Regulatory Commission levied against the Philadelphia hospital in March. NRC, which oversees the use of nuclear medicine, said the medical center incorrectly placed radioactive seeds in 97 patients who were being treated for prostate cancer between 2002 and 2008. The agency’s $227,500 fine was one of its the largest ever, highlighting the significance of the mistreatment of veterans at the hospital.

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