CHICAGO (AP) — Officials of Hines Veterans Administration Hospital outside Chicago said Tuesday they have solved the problem of cockroaches in food preparation areas and on serving trays handed to patients.
In a report released by the Department of Veteran Affair's inspector general's office, investigators last year found cockroaches were persistently present in and around the food service area. Inspectors also found patients received food trays containing cockroaches. And they determined hospital leadership knew about the unsanitary conditions in the kitchens and did not resolve the problem.
Hines spokesman Rick Fox said hospital officials said some changes have made a dramatic improvement. Fox added hospital officials were working on a long-term solution that includes a remodel of the kitchen to make sure the problem won't return.
"We're committed to making all necessary changes to provide the best environment for our veterans." Fox said. "The conditions present in May 2016, one year ago, were unacceptable and have since been addressed."
The investigation was undertaken at the request of then-Sen. Mark Kirk and then-Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, an Iraqi war veteran and double amputee who receives her care at Hines. The findings of the inspection were released Tuesday.
In addition to the presence of cockroaches, inspectors observed conditions favorable to pest infestation. They included open cardboard boxes with dry food products exposed, food items in open cardboard boxes that were stored less than six inches from the floor, cracks in the flooring, water around floor drains, and trash receptacles without lids.
The inspectors determined understaffing contributed to the problems in the food preparation areas, with cleaning duties distributed among staff. Overtime offered to staff to address the problems were often declined, reportedly due to low morale and feelings the staff was being overworked.
Fox said Hines officials have taken steps to increase staff within the Nutrition and Food service. He said they also have hired a contractor to provide nightly cleaning in the kitchen after hours and a deep cleaning twice a month, implemented a comprehensive cleaning schedule, and repaired tiles and pipes that created issues with standing water.