Sex allegations lead to investigation at Beckley VA Hospital

But a woman who works at the VA facility, who did not give her name to the newspaper, said eight employees have been disciplined for engaging in sexual activities inside the hospital.

The alleged sex scandal had been going on for three years, involving employees ranging from supervisors to nurses, she said.

Some sexual activities were taking place inside hospital rooms occupied by patients, she said.

Debbie Voloski, director of public relations at the Beckley VA Hospital, said Thursday, "Some of that information is inaccurate.

"But we are conducting an investigation into certain issues that we cannot discuss. Our director has established an administrative board for the investigation."

Katie Roberts, national press secretary for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington, D.C., stated in an e-mail on Friday:

"The Department of Veterans Affairs is currently investigating the situation. All allegations of harassment or potential abuse are taken very seriously and appropriate actions are taken.

"VA believes that all our veterans, patients and employees must be treated with the utmost dignity and respect. The department does not tolerate actions contrary to the mission of protecting and promoting the health and welfare of our veterans and employees," Roberts wrote.

Both Voloski and Roberts said they could not provide more details about the investigation at this time.

The woman who called the newspaper said all eight people involved in the controversy were escorted off the Beckley hospital's property on Friday, April 10.

Some were then relocated to other VA locations, some were suspended and some were fired, the woman said.

Neither Voloski nor Roberts would confirm whether that was true.
Rebecca Gale, press secretary for Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said on Friday that the senator's office "was informed last month that serious allegations of employee misconduct had been made at the Beckley VA.

"The VA has specific policies and procedures in place to investigate complaints from both personnel and patients. We have been assured at every level that a full investigation was conducted and that strong disciplinary action has and is being taken, up to and including termination of VA employees.

"Sen. Rockefeller will continue to monitor the matter and will insist that VA employees uphold in every way their obligation of integrity and service to our veterans," Gale said.

A variety of other scandals and problems are currently confronting VA medical facilities in other states.

On Friday, The Post and Courier newspaper in Charleston, S.C., reported that John Barilich, director of the Ralph H. Johnson Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Charleston, S.C., was stepping down from his position.

In a Thursday e-mail sent to The Post and Courier, Roberts stated: "We are conducting an administrative investigation into management practices at our Charleston facility.

"Once the investigation is complete, we will be able to discuss further details," Roberts wrote.

None of the details of that apparent controversy have been made public.

Late last month, patients at two other VA facilities suffered viral infections after exposure to contaminated medical equipment.

As of March 27, 10 colonoscopy patients at the VA Hospital in Murfreesboro, Tenn., tested positive for hepatitis, Roberts told the Associated Press.

And six veterans who were patients at the VA's Ear, Nose and Throat Clinic in Augusta, Ga., tested positive for unspecified viral infections.

Roberts said VA officials had notified more than 10,000 veterans that they should get blood tests to determine whether they, too, had been exposed to contamination at either of those two facilities, as well as at another VA Hospital in Miami, Fla.

All three VA medical facilities apparently failed to sterilize medical equipment properly. Sterilization problems have apparently been going on for more than five years at VA hospitals in Murfreesboro and Miami.

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