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updated: 5/30/2014 7:33 PM

Kirk voices new allegations from Hines hospital staff

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  • U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk speaks at a news conference accompanied by Veterans Affairs social worker Germaine Clarno on Friday in Chicago. The pair detailed new allegations against the Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital.

      U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk speaks at a news conference accompanied by Veterans Affairs social worker Germaine Clarno on Friday in Chicago. The pair detailed new allegations against the Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital.
    Associated Press

 
Associated Press

U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk says he's met with doctors from Edward Hines Jr. VA hospital who tell him "boxes and boxes" of echocardiograms went unread for weeks and that some patients died in the interim.

It's the latest allegation to surface from Hines. It's one of the VA facilities under scrutiny after allegations first surfaced in Phoenix about efforts to cover up long wait times for patients seeking appointments.

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At a news conference in Chicago Friday, the Republican senator from Highland Park declined to identify the two doctors to protect them from any retaliation.

A Hines spokeswoman did not immediately respond to an email and voice mail seeking comment.

Alongside Kirk, VA social worker Germaine Clarno told of efforts to intimidate those speaking out.

Kirk's news conference came hours after VA Secretary Eric Shinseki's resignation was accepted by President Barack Obama.

Just before that, U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth, a Hoffman Estates Democrat and former VA assistant secretary who lost both legs in Iraq, called for Shinseki to resign because she said the growing scandal took the focus off veterans.

"Unfortunately, this scandal has been a distraction from that and that's why I think it's time for new leadership at the Department of Veterans Affairs," she said in a statement.

She joined a growing number of federal lawmakers calling for the leadership change and added the voice of a former VA official and wounded Army veteran to that chorus.

Local lawmakers that praised Shinseki for stepping down also said they were looking for broad reforms.

"I thank Secretary Shinseki for his many years of service to our nation," U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren, a Winfield Republican, said in a statement. "But his resignation does nothing to deal with the debacle resulting from the bureaucratic nightmare at the VA, nor does it give relief to veterans who have suffered egregiously long wait times and continue to not get the care they deserve."

• Daily Herald Political Editor Mike Riopell contributed to this report.

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