An infestation of cockroaches is so out of control at a Veterans Affairs hospital, the insects are finding their way into patients’ food.
According to Conservative Review, cockroaches routinely crawl across countertops as cooks prepare meals at a suburban Chicago Veterans Affairs hospital.
“The workers try to brush the cockroaches off the counters, but the bugs get in the food,” Germaine Clarno, a social worker at the Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital said.
“It’s been like this for years, ever since anyone can remember,” Clarno said.
Dietetic technician Kelvin Gilkey explained how PTSD-traumatized veterans in the mental health unit were given food trays with cockroaches on them on multiple occasions last year.
At one point, a veteran was so enraged he began swearing and demanded to be discharged. He stayed there for another 28 days and was sick whenever he had to eat a meal.
“I apologized and said I would provide him with a special tray but he refused to eat,” Gilkey said. “He went hungry for a couple of days until I convinced him to eat. He even refused to come out of his room and socialize with anyone. I told him I would take care of him.”
The staff was down 25 positions as food service funding was diverted in order to fix a secret medical wait list scandal two years ago.
In addition, kitchen employees refused to show up out of fear they'd bring the bugs home with them leaving no one to clean.
An inquiry was opened on March 4 after yet another veteran found a cockroach in his food. The case was closed on April 6 without an onsite visit by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration because the VA had shown proof the problem was addressed.
Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) is demanding things be fixed.
Kirk sent a letter to the VA last week, wanting to know what is being done to ensure veterans' food is handled to the highest standards.
“The dining environment … operations are of a questionable level of sanitation. In fact, reports of contamination, including but not limited to the persistent presence of roaches in and around the food service area, have been circulated by staff with facility leadership for years,” part of the letter read.
He also told Conservative Review that, “a veteran should NEVER be served food with a roach on their tray. It's not only deplorable to find out that a roach infestation in the veteran’s kitchen has been allowed to knowingly exist for years without remedy, but once again we learn that the merry-go-round of bullied silence and cover-up continues at Hines VA with impunity.”
Gilkey sides strongly with Mark Kirk and says the whole thing hurts him.
“Senior management is hiding the fact that this kitchen is infested with roaches and nothing has been done with it,” he said. “I have spent 33 years here and never would I imagine that we’d treat the veterans like we’re treating them. While we are lying in bed at night, they are out protecting the world. This hurts me.”