President Obama told a national convention of military veterans in Pittsburgh that the deal to cage Iran's nuclear weapons program makes another war in the Middle East less likely.
The address marked Obama's 29th visit to Pennsylvania and his first public acknowledgment of a deadly Legionnaires' disease outbreak at the Veterans Affairs Pittsburgh Healthcare System. The outbreak killed at least six veterans and infected at least 16 others.
The VA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the outbreak began in February 2011 and ended in November 2012. But a Tribune-Review investigation uncovered water samples that showed alarmingly high levels of Legionella bacteria in the hospitals' water systems dating to at least 2007. The investigation found several veterans who likely contracted the disease at the hospital before the outbreak's ostensible beginning but were never told about it.
“That was a tragedy, and whenever there are any missteps, there is no excuse. So our hearts go out to the families of those who lost loved ones,” Obama said.
The VA fired former Pittsburgh director Terry Gerigk Wolf for her role in the outbreak, Obama noted. Investigations into the outbreak prompted a nationwide overhaul of VA regulations for Legionella prevention, as well as a federal law and VA policy change requiring hospitals to report disease outbreaks to state health authorities.
“The safety measures now in place are some of the strongest in the nation, and patient safety is a top priority at VA hospitals because we have to prevent anything like that from ever happening again,” Obama said.
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