The possible exposure of more than 700 veterans to potentially fatal viruses such as hepatitis C and HIV that occurred at the Buffalo, N.Y., VA Medical Center from 2010 to 2012 is the subject of an official internal investigation.
Rep. Brian Higgins, D-N.Y., announced Tuesday that VA's inspector general will review the wrongful use of single-person insulin pens on multiple patients at the facility to determine how it happened.
At least two lawmakers — Higgins and Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. — had called for the inquiry after learning from VA that it plans to test more than 500 patients for infection after insulin pen cartridges meant for a single patient were used on others.
Of the 716 veterans who likely received insulin shots during the time frame, 146 have since died. No links have been determined between the deaths and reuse of the insulin pens.
All 716 were inpatients when they received the insulin shots.
"It is critical that we get to the bottom of this so we can work urgently to correct the flaws in the system that led to this situation," Higgins said.
In May 2011, the Government Accountability Office warned VA that its oversight of disposable medical items and reusable equipment was not strong enough to ensure patient safety.
Since 2004, almost 13,000 patients have been exposed to infectious diseases at VA medical facilities from contaminated or improperly prepared equipment.