Florida Public Health Review

Publication Date

June 2011


World news organizations have criticized the United States Department of Veterans Affairs for endangering patient safety through negligence. Several VA medical centers - including prominent centers operating in Florida - failed to sterilize endoscopy and colonoscopy equipment. Through improper sterilization, a pathway for infection is created resulting in potential disease exposures to patients. In response, the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General investigated the reports and found that facilities did not adhere to protocol concerning reusable medical equipment (RME) problems during the practice ofperforming endoscopies and colonoscopies. The Office ofInspector General noted that the incidents reflected flaws in the fundamental organizational structure ofthe VA. Such a statement is consistent with the fact that other VA medical centers have been implicated for endangering patient safety in medical hygiene cases unrelated to the endoscopy and colonoscopy scandal. The top-down organizational structure ofthe VA requires leadership to take responsibility for operational problems. Goleman’s theory ofemotional intelligence in leadership provides a basic framework for the VA to overcome what is essentially a values problem on an institutional level.