Lawmakers introduced legislation to enhance transparency across the facilities.
A bipartisan Senate bill would direct the Veterans Affairs Department to steer and submit a comprehensive report to Congress spotlighting its policies for, installments and uses of security cameras across VA medical centers.
Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., on Thursday put forth the legislation, in what they presented as a collective bid to “improve transparency” within the agencies’ health care-providing enterprise.
The bill comes more than two years after a series of troubling reports revealed a string of suspicious deaths at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg, West Virginia—which the lawmakers pinpointed in a statement as inspiration behind the legislation’s introduction.
Those incidents ultimately led to a fired VA employee from that facility pleading guilty to multiple counts of second-degree murder. The VA nursing assistant who is also a veteran, without proper qualifications to administer medication, injected lethal doses of insulin into several non-diabetic patients, which is believed to have resulted in their deaths.
“Following the troubling news out of the Clarksburg, VA, I have remained in close contact with those involved in this investigation to ensure that we not only get answers, but also to make sure situations like this do not occur in the future,” Capito said in the statement. “In one of my conversations with VA Inspector General Michael Missal, he cited the lack of eye witnesses or security footage as a complicating factor in the Clarksburg investigation.”
Manchin further added that “[h]ad there been security cameras in place at the facility, veteran lives may have been saved and we must do everything possible to ensure no more veterans are murdered at VAMC facilities.”
Specifically, the bill would mandate a full report to Congress within 180 days of its passage that provides an overarching look into how and where security cameras are put to use in VA medical centers. Lawmakers want details describing how the department uses the cameras to monitor staff, how the patient privacy policies impact the placement of the watchful devices, and an evaluation into whether cameras are widely installed to track locations where drugs are stored.
The legislation also calls for a “description of improvements that can be made by the department regarding the placement of security cameras and the storage of data from such cameras to better hold staff accountable and ensure the safety of patients.”
On top of several other responsibilities, the agency would also need to offer up a range of recommendations, including a determination of whether the VA secretary should call for “every hallway of each medical center [to] have at least one security camera.”
Missing from the bill is any call for insights to be gained around how the agency turns to cybersecurity to protect the footage that might be captured, but it does note that potentially forthcoming recommendations can also include other matters that are of interest to the secretary, but are not mentioned.
The legislation was referred to the Veterans Affairs Committee on the day it was introduced.
Editor’s Note: The article was updated to correct the location of Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center.