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Senator urges quick action on VA hospital probe

February 17, 2016

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, on Wednesday urged quick federal action to probe "very troubling" allegations about management and veterans' care at the Cincinnati VA hospital.

The hospital annually delivers medical care to more than 43,000 veterans from southwest Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. A message for comment was left there Wednesday.

Portman, of the Cincinnati area, commented on a WCPO-TV and Scripps News Washington Bureau report that nearly three dozen current and former medical center employees have expressed urgent concerns about quality of care. They blame cost-cutting and other practices they said have reduced access to care and raised safety questions.

"These are very troubling allegations," Portman said after speaking at the Queen City Mobile Summit focused on tech startups and other small businesses. "Our veterans deserve the best health care."

The Department of Veterans Affairs said recently it has opened an investigation into its Cincinnati hospital. It offered little detail.

Portman wants the Office of Inspector General to move quickly to "get to the bottom" of the allegations, and said he's also reached out to the Senate committee on veterans affairs. Portman said he could also "move on it separately" with the permanent subcommittee on investigations.

He also asks veterans to share their experiences at a veterans' issues portal on his Senate website.

Jack Hetrick, who oversees the VA's regional network for Ohio, told The Cincinnati Enquirer he was limited in what he could say about the VA probe, other than that "they have been reviewing a number of employee allegations about certain things at the hospital."

The VA said in its recent statement that it has temporarily shifted oversight of the Cincinnati medical center to another region.

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