Rubio, Soldiers Groups Slam VA over Rat, Roach Infested Tampa Veterans Hospital

Rat at Haley VA Hospital TB Times
Recent photo of dead rat that fell from the ceiling in the Haley Veterans’ Hospital kitchen via the Tampa Bay Times.

Presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) wrote a letter to the interim director of the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa on Monday about reports that the kitchen areas have a massive infestation of rats and roaches. Rubio’s letter is the lead item on his Senate Web site.

An internal hospital email reported by the Tampa Bay Times said that “buckets” of rats, roaches and feces had been removed from kitchen areas in recent months; that roaches were on food trays served to veteran patients and that three dead rats had fallen from the kitchen ceiling last week.

A spokeswoman for the hospital told The Gateway Pundit on Tuesday the infestation is “under control”, that the food preparation areas are “normal” and that “no pest activity evidence has been identified in food preparation areas.”

In his letter to Interim Hospital Director Sallie Houser-Hanfelder, Rubio said he was “alarmed” by the “disturbing conditions” for veterans at the hospital. Rubio reminded the director he had introduced legislation that President Barack Obama signed in to law giving the VA authority to fire incompetent managers.

Rubio’s letter was first reported on by the Tampa Bay Times. Rubio’s office provided a copy of the letter to The Gateway Pundit. The Times reported Rubio’s fellow Florida senator, Democrat Bill Nelson “also has contacted VA officials about the infestation, the Democrat’s office confirmed.”

Concerned Veterans for America called the infestation at the Haley Veterans’ Hospital “appalling”.

CVA Florida State Director Diego Echeverri said in a written statement to The Gateway Pundit:

“The infestation of cockroaches, rats and mice at the Tampa VA hospital is disgusting and beyond unacceptable. This situation is a prime example of VA mismanagement and dysfunction. It’s clear managers should have taken action long before now to address the pests, and the VA’s reaction to this situation should not be tolerated. The Tampa VA hospital owes veterans an apology—not a defense of the deplorable conditions of the hospital.

“Our veterans fought to defend our country; they shouldn’t have to fight cockroaches off their trays at a VA medical center.”

Beverly Perlson, founder of The Band of Mothers, a group of mothers of soldiers, said in a statement to The Gateway Pundit:

“This situation needs to be corrected yesterday!!! The conditions that our most noble Veterans continue to contend with are an outrage and as a nation, we all should be so very ashamed! I am convinced that the deplorable treatment our precious Veterans are enduing will only improve when those of us who have benefitted greatly from their tremendous sacrifices raise our voices in a thunderous outrage!”

Haley Veterans’ Hospital spokeswoman Karen Collins responded to inquiries by The Gateway Pundit via email. Both of Collins’statements are presented here in full:

“We make every effort to provide the safest and best experience possible for Veterans who entrust us with delivering the care they have earned and deserve. Being in a tropical, urban environment, we are keenly aware of the potential of, and continually monitor for, any pest control issues. We have established a multidisciplinary enviro-team (consisting of safety, infection control, environmental management and other services) that responds if a potential safety or environmental risk is reported. Recently, we observed an uptick in reported pest-related activities, whether due to construction on the adjacent property or for other reasons. We have developed an aggressive and pro-active plan to address it; including awarding a new pest control contract focused on the Canteen and food preparation areas. If an issue is identified, the pest control team responds to eliminate it; and the environmental team will terminally clean the area in question. Given the climate and location of our facility, we will remain diligent in our efforts to address pest control issues on an ongoing basis.

“The contractor believes the situation is under control and will remain so with continued treatments. Visions, Inc. has partnered with Ecolab for the past 25 years to perform pest control services and have an office in Tampa. More information about the contractor can be found on their website at www.veadvantage.com.”

In response to a question about whether the hospital kitchens were open and had been inspected by health regulators, Collins wrote:

“As I stated, the contractor believes the situation is under control. All the food preparation areas are currently running as normal. No pest activity evidence has been identified in food preparation areas. In addition to a variety of external inspections such as the Joint Commission, we use several internal, multi-disciplinary teams, who round on a regular basis, to observe our facilities and environment of care to ensure compliance with a multitude of regulatory standards. No major concerns have been identified during these inspections. During the triannual Joint Commission inspections, there have been no recommendations regarding environment of care related to cleanliness and/or pests in food preparation areas since at least 2001.”

The text of the Rubio letter:

“June 22, 2015

“Dear Ms. Houser-Hanfelder:

“I was alarmed by a recent article in the Tampa Bay Times detailing some disturbing conditions our veterans have encountered at James A. Haley VA Medical Center in Tampa, Florida. According to the article, three large dead rats were found in the facility’s kitchen during renovations last week. The article described how employees have known about pest issues in the building for weeks, including a “major roach problem” in at least two areas of the hospital, with some patients even finding them in their food.

“The sacrifices of our nation’s veterans have earned them the right to the best possible health care and patient service at the VA. Stories such as this remind us of how much work remains ahead for the VA in order to adequately meet its obligation to our veterans.

“As you know, last year, I introduced legislation to give the VA the authority to fire or demote managers responsible for poor care to veterans, which President Obama signed into law. This year, I’ve worked with House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-FL) on new legislation to expand these authorities, which I am hopeful will also become law. In addition to holding people accountable, it is my hope that these reforms will help fundamentally change the culture at the VA so that people have full confidence that poor performance will not be tolerated, nor allowed to diminish all the positive contributions the vast majority of VA doctors, nurses and other employees are making to the well-being of our veterans.

“Improved conditions at the James A. Haley VA Medical Center are critical for veterans in the Tampa Bay area. I respectfully ask you to direct your full attention to ensuring that the facility’s pest issues are resolved and that you do everything in your capacity as Hospital Director to improve the conditions for all veterans who come to your facility. Please do not hesitate to contact my office if I can be of assistance.

“Sincerely,

“Marco Rubio”

Kudos to Tampa Bay Times reporter William R. Levesque for breaking and continuing to break news on the Haley Veterans’ Hospital rat and roach infestation.

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