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Dozens of surgeries have been delayed at California VA hospital because of insect infestation

Dozens of surgeries at the VA hospital in West Los Angeles have been delayed over the last two years due to flies in the operating room. (Image source: KCBS-TV video screenshot)

The Veterans Affairs hospital in West Los Angeles has a bug problem. It’s been so bad, that nearly 100 veterans’ surgeries have been delayed over the last couple of years, KCBS-TV reported.

VA West Los Angeles Medical Center has hundreds of flytraps installed throughout the hospital, but flies still sometimes get into operating rooms, forcing doctors to cancel surgeries for safety reasons.

What’s the story?

A KCBS investigation revealed that an infestation of flies at the VA hospital has caused issues, dating  back at least to 2016.

“The flies have flown into the operating rooms, at times requiring cancellation of surgeries,” Christian Head, associate director and chief of staff for quality assurance at the hospital, said. “I don’t believe there’s any hospital in the country that would find it acceptable to have flies on a routine basis.”

According to KCBS, West Los Angeles Medical Center had operating rooms closed a total of 22 days from November 2016 through February 2018 because flies in the operating room could cause serious, potentially fatal health complications for patients.

That amounts to 83 surgeries postponed for military veterans, who sometimes had been waiting more than a month only to have their procedures delayed longer.

“[Flies] are attracted to open wounds for the fluids that they need to sustain themselves and also to keep from drying out,” Brian Brown, curator of entomology at the LA Museum of Natural History, told KCBS. “They could also lay eggs on the open wounds.”

Leadership failure?

Eric Hannel, a former investigator for the House Veterans Affairs Committee, told KCBS that the delay in solving this problem shows a “leadership failure at the highest levels.”

In a statement, the Veterans Affairs department said there is no evidence that patients have been harmed, but they decided to close rooms in the past out of an “abundance of caution.”

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