26 de mar de 2015

Top-paid doctor involved in Pittsburgh VA scandal - LEGIONELLA

One of the highest paid federal employees in the country knew for more than a year about dangerous levels of Legionella bacteria in drinking water that later caused six patient deaths at a Veterans Affairs hospital, internal VA communications show.
Ali Sonel, an interventional cardiologist and chief of staff at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, made $392,770 in 2014, which is more than only four other federal employees in the country, according to federal data.
The payroll data obtained by DataUniverse.com, the public records site of the Asbury Park Press, do not include Department of Defense employees and don't include most employee merit bonuses.
Internal records obtained by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review showed that Sonel and other top officials at the Pittsburgh VA knew that the system used to curtail Legionella – a bacteria found naturally in water that can cause pneumonia – was operating below standards at the Oakland hospital in September 2011.
The VA didn't tell patients, non-medical staff or the public about the problem until November 2012, which prompted an investigation by the VA Office of Inspector General.
An April 2013 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that a total of 21 patients had Legionnaire's disease, sand that six had died because of it. The report said there was a failure to recognize cases of the disease "for an extended period of time," and that the perception was the Legionella was well-controlled.
VA Pittsburgh Spokeswoman Bethany Miga said Sonel advocated for reaching out to the CDC, and also invited the county and state health department to review the outbreak.
She said no one at the Pittsburgh VA was disciplined for "a lack of transparency." But In November 2014, Pittsburgh VA director Terry Gerigk Wolf was fired because of the outbreak.
General VA surgeons can make up to $325,000 per year, Miga said. Doctors with more complex surgical specialties can make up to $385,000. She also said VA facilities can request exceptions to the published annual pay ranges to recruit or retain physicians in a specific specialty area.
The starting salary for an interventional cardiologist is $400,000, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. Sonel has been practicing for 17 years, Miga said.
Thomas Cacciarelli, a Pittsburgh VA transplant surgeon, is the second-highest paid federal employee in the country. He makes $401,589, which is more than President Barack Obama. Miga said the Pittsburgh VA has a busy transplant program, and Cacciarelli performed 39 kidney and 30 liver transplants last year.

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