A recent Veterans Affairs Inspector General report found that the Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital in Hines, Illinois hasn’t been keeping its kitchen facility up to health standards.
According to the report (below), an inspection was conducted in May 2016 to investigate allegations that cockroaches were present in the kitchen and that some patients were delivered food trays with cockroaches on them.
Sanitation Problems Observed
The report said that it found “persistent presence of cockroaches in and around NFS [Nutrition and Food Service] areas” and that “we observed conditions favorable to pest infestation.”
Among the problems the inspectors found:
- Dead cockroaches in glue traps around the main kitchen
- Open cardboard boxes in the main kitchen with dry food products exposed
- Food items in open cardboard boxes that were stored less than 6 inches from the floor
- Water infiltration around the floor drains
- Trash receptacles without lids
Serving Cockroaches to Patients
As to the allegations of food trays being delivered to patients with cockroaches on them, the report said, “We substantiated that at least several patients received food trays with cockroaches on them.”
The report continued:
MH nursing staff informed us that food on patients’ trays is generally covered and trays are clean when they arrive to the unit via the transportation cart. However, MH nursing staff and several patients witnessed cockroaches on transportation carts. We were informed that patients became very upset and distressed as a result of witnessing cockroaches on food trays and transportation carts. At times, the patients’ distress would disrupt the entire unit. MH nursing staff reported that on one occasion, pizza was ordered because patients were upset and refused to eat the food delivered via transportation carts.
The report also noted that food transportation carts had not been properly cleaned and that the “residual grime and debris” present on them “not only attracted cockroaches but provided a hiding place [for them.]”
The IG report noted that the VA facility blamed the cockroach problem on recently changing pest control companies, structural integrity problems with the old building, and the location of the kitchen (it is in the facility’s basement).
Sanitary Inspection Standards Legislation
Former Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) is one of the lawmakers who called for the inspection of the facility that led to the IG report. He had introduced legislation in a previous Congress that called for new sanitation inspection requirements at VA facilities in response to allegations of the presence of cockroaches.
The bill ultimately died in a previous session of Congress.
The IG made these recommendations:
- Veterans Integrated Service Network Director ensure that the Facility Director complete an analysis of the basement and sub-basement structures to determine if adequate measures are in place to prevent water infiltration.
- Facility Director ensure that Nutrition and Food Service kitchen staffing is sufficient to perform all required duties, including cleaning and sanitation.
- Facility Director complete an analysis of the feasibility of relocating the main kitchen to an area that limits the environmental conditions for pests.