MACON, Ga. — More than 4,000 veterans must wait and worry about possible infections as the Carl Vinson VA Medical Center in Dublin says those vets may have been exposed to possibly-unclean medical equipment there.
Patrick Cunningham served in the Army for 7 years.
"As a country that is so quick to send their soldiers and airmen and Marines to war, they are real chintzy on how they take care of us when we get back," Cunningham said.
He visited the Dublin VA on January 12 to get labs done. Because of that visit, the VA hospital says he, along with 4,000 other visiting veterans over the last year, may have been exposed to infection.
The VA's director announced Wednesday veterans should be tested for bloodborne illnesses like hepatitis B and C, and HIV.
"This just doesn't just affect veterans. This affects people with intimate contact with veterans. If they gave me an infectious disease I could have given it to my fiancée," he said.
Cunningham received a robotic call from the Dublin VA Thursday notifying him about the possible exposure.
"It was crazy! They couldn't even have a human being call me about this," he said.
Cunningham says he's not shocked by this situation because he believes there's room for improvement when it comes to taking care of veterans.
Last year, he went to an outside doctor to have parts of his colon removed, but he says that process took more than 6 months for the VA to agree to, "As opposed to going to see their doctor. Boy, I am glad I did, because who knows how that surgery would have gone? Because it was major surgery," he said.
He says another issue he deals with is access. Cunningham lives in Macon, and must drive to Dublin for services the Macon office can't do. That was the case when he had bloodwork done in January.
"It's bad enough that I have to drive an hour away to get even the most cursory of procedures done. The fact that I could go there and potentially just be infected, I mean, that's just insult to injury," he said.
Cunningham says he doesn't trust the VA, but, "Unfortunately, I mean, we have to because we don't have a choice. In a perfect world, I would rather go see a private practice and just have the VA cover me," he said.
Congressman Rick Allen sent 13WMAZ the following statement about the Dublin VA: “Congressman Allen has been in close communication with leadership at the Carl Vinson VA regarding the internal review and halting of medical procedures at the medical center, and he encourages any veteran who has been affected to utilize the free testing being offered. He is grateful to the staff who identified the issue for coming forward, and commends Director Davila for working to immediately stop the line and retrain staff during his first week on the job. Our veterans are owed the best possible care – period - and Congressman Allen remains committed to ensuring they receive all the benefits that they’ve earned.”
If you are a veteran who is impacted by this issue and have more questions, you can call the Carl Vinson Medical Center at (478) 274-5400.