BECKLEY, W.Va. — A doctor currently serving a 25-year prison term for sexually abusing patients at the Beckley VA Medical Center also treated patients with needle acupuncture when he wasn’t credentialed to do so.
The Veteran Administration’s Office of Inspector General said it found documentation recently that Dr. Jonathan Yates used acupuncture to treat several hundred patients.
“Although trained, Dr. Yates was not credentialed to perform acupuncture,” the VA told MetroNews in a Wednesday statement.
The Beckley VA Medical Center began an internal review after hearing from the OIG on Oct. 20. An internal review team of five registered nurses identified 372 potential patients in the possible exposure group and they are being contacted, the VA said.
“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,” Wednesday’s statement said. “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.”
The VA also said it’s done a full review of all infection control practices and it now employs a fully-qualified acupuncturist at the Beckley VA Medical Center. Any patients with questions about the acupuncture may call 304-255-2121 ext. 4172.
In a statement to MetroNews, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said he was glad the VA acted quickly after learning of the situation.
“It is unacceptable that a doctor performed unlicensed treatment for any Veteran, and I’m pleased the VA is taking quick action to address the issue, including offering free blood tests for Veterans impacted,” Manchin said. “As a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, I will keep fighting for our Veterans in Washington and will continue working with the VA to address these failures of care and trust.”
Senator Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., told MetroNews that Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough notified her personally about the problem.
“While I am deeply concerned that this occurred in the first place, my office continues to stay in close contact with the VA and others to make sure we are receiving the information and answers needed,” she said in a statement. “In the meantime, I encourage all veterans who may have been impacted to get tested as a precaution. Our veterans deserve the best possible care, and what occurred at the Beckley VA is unacceptable and cannot happen in the future.”
Yates was sentenced on Jan. 25 to 300 months in federal prison after pleading guilty in September 2020 to three counts of depriving veterans of their civil rights under the color of law by sexually abusing them. Yates admitted to rubbing the genitals of two veterans and digitally penetrating a third person’s rectum without any legitimate medical purpose.
The VA settled lawsuits with 62 of Yates former patients for $10.5 million. Each received approximately $180,000.