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Surgeries to resume at hospital where 19 died

/ Source: The Associated Press

Minor outpatient surgeries will resume next month at a Veterans Affairs hospital in southern Illinois where operations were stopped after a spike in post-surgical deaths.

After a review of the Marion VA Medical Center, Dr. Ralph DePalma, the VA's national director of surgery, recommended allowing certain surgeries, including knee arthroscopies, prostate biopsies, vasectomies and hernia repairs.

Such procedures for low-risk patients will resume on May 8, officials said Tuesday.

"We will continue to do our best to rebuild the confidence and meet the high standards of care veterans, their families and the community expect of us," said Warren Hill, the center's acting director.

The VA halted all surgeries at the Marion center in August after it found at least nine deaths between October 2006 and March 2007 were "directly attributable" to substandard care.

Of 34 other cases the VA investigated, 10 patients died after receiving questionable care that complicated their health, officials said. Investigators could not determine whether the actual care caused those deaths.

Interim administrators have been in place since September, after the site's director, chief of staff, chief of surgery and an anesthesiologist were moved to other positions or placed on leave. The anesthesiologist has since quit.

Last month, Sen. Dick Durbin expressed frustration that the Marion hospital still has no permanent leadership or surgical unit. Durbin said in a statement Tuesday that while the resumption of some surgeries is a positive move.

"Access to surgical procedures at Marion is important for our veterans," Durbin said. "Today, the VA identified important steps that must be taken at Marion before they resume inpatient surgeries, including filling several key personnel positions and completing the Administrative Investigation Board's review."

No timetable has been set for inpatient procedures.