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Hotline complaint prompted new investigation into former doc at Beckley VA Medical Center

The Office of the Inspector General conducted a virtual review in October
Former doc named in acupuncture investigation
Former doc named in acupuncture investigation(wvva)
Published: Nov. 17, 2021 at 11:44 AM EST
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UPDATE: WVVA News has learned new details about what prompted a review into a former doctor’s practices at the Beckley VA Medical Center.

The practices of former Dr. Jonathan Yates are the subject of a new inquiry after the VA Office of the Inspector General (OIG) received a hotline complaint. While the nature of that call has not yet been revealed, the spokesperson said it prompted a virtual review in October on account of COVID-19.

WVVA News also learned Thursday from the spokesperson that while the VA cannot validate whether proper sterilization procedures were followed, the VA does not have any witness evidence that Yates reused needles, and “out of an abundance of caution, we are testing every potential patient who may have had acupuncture, dry needling, or auricular acupuncture.”

Yates is currently serving a federal prison sentence for sexually abusing patients at the Beckley VA. According to court records from that case, Yates at times used acupuncture procedures to disable veterans.

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UPDATE: After reports surfaced of an investigation underway at the Beckley VA Medical Center involving acupuncture procedures by an uncredentialed doctor, WVVA News has confirmed his name.

The person at the center of the inquiry is former Dr. Jonathan Yates, the same doctor who was sentenced to federal prison for sexually abusing patients at the hospital. Hundreds of veterans are being urged to get their blood tested after receiving the procedures.

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BECKLEY, W.Va. (WVVA) - Hundreds of patients at the Beckley VA Medical Center are being urged to get blood tests after the Veterans Affairs Office of the Inspector General (OIG) uncovered evidence of an uncredentialed doctor performing unauthorized acupuncture procedures at the hospital.

Patients informed WVVA News they had received phone calls from their primary care doctor alerting them to the situation and were asked to get tested for blood borne pathogens such as HIV and Hepatitis.

WVVA News reached out to a spokesperson for the Beckley VA Medical Center to learn more about the spark that set the investigation into motion and received the following response:

“The Office of the Inspector General notified our quality management chief October 20th that it found documentation of a non-credentialed physician providing needle acupuncture. Upon notification, our leadership swiftly identified all potential patients who may have been affected and coordinated a plan to ensure they received appropriate follow-up care. We also initiated an immediate internal review. We want to reassure our Veterans and the West Virginia community that this physician is no longer employed by VA.”

The spokesperson went on: “The internal review comprised of five registered nurses who reviewed 100% of the physician’s patient encounters from May 2018 to February 2019 for evidence of needle acupuncture, dry needling, or auricular acupuncture, and identified 372 potential patients in the possible exposure group. Since we cannot validate if proper sterilization techniques were followed, out of an abundance of caution, we are offering testing to all patients who received acupuncture. Although infection risk to patients is very low, we are contacting all patients and are offering blood borne pathogen testing for all patients who were treated by this physician.”

“Additionally, a full review of all infection control practices has been performed and a fully-qualified acupuncturist is now employed at the facility.”

“If one of our Veterans has questions or concerns, they may call 304-255-2121 ext. 4172 to discuss this issue further with knowledgeable staff.”

“We extend our deepest apologies to all affected patients and assure you that we are doing everything we can to correct this issue.”

Steve New, an attorney for several of the patients impacted, said “the needles were either being reused or somehow contaminated, which is another aspect of acupuncture all together and my clients are being asked to come in and have blood work.” "

The acupuncture procedures were done in the same Whole Health Department where Dr. Jonathan Yates was found guilty of sexually abusing patients and occurred during an overlapping time frame.

West Virginia Republican Party Chairman Dr. Mark Harris was Chief of Staff at the hospital at the time, but has told WVVA News previously that he was not directly responsible for the Whole Health Dept.

“This may be continued fallout from some of the bad administrators that were there a couple of years ago when improper things were happening with the Whole Health Clinic. It may be part of that,” said New.

New is encouraging more people to get tested to help determine the scale and scope of the issue.

“What they need to be doing, is urging these men and women to get tested or get to the health department because we’re trying to get to the bottom of how you may have had the unauthorized practice of acupuncture on you.”

Stay with WVVA News on-air and online for more new developments.

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