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Lynch reassured after meeting with Brockton VA

US Representative Stephen F. Lynch (flanked by VA health director Vincent Ng and Mayor Bill Carpenter) greeted Vietnam veteran Brian Ahearn, 64, in Brockton  on Friday.

George Rizer for The Boston Globe

US Representative Stephen F. Lynch (flanked by VA health director Vincent Ng and Mayor Bill Carpenter) greeted Vietnam veteran Brian Ahearn, 64, in Brockton on Friday.

BROCKTON — US Representative Stephen F. Lynch said he felt reassured Friday that patients are now being well cared for at the Brockton Veterans Affairs center, where an investigation found that two patients went years without proper psychiatric attention.

After touring the Brockton Community Living Center Friday and talking to dozens of veterans, staff, and the director of the VA Boston Healthcare System, Lynch said he was confident in the quality of the care at the facility, and he does not believe such mistreatment will happen there again.

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“They stepped up and they admitted they weren’t doing what they were required to do,” Lynch said. “They stepped up and corrected it right away. I think that’s a good indicator.”

The two psychiatric patients received no regular evaluations of their condition for years, part of a “troubling pattern of deficient patient care” that US investigators say they found at veterans’ health care facilities nationwide, the Globe reported this week.

Vincent Ng, director of the VA Boston Healthcare System, said that in the past six months, the VA Boston system has reinstituted annual psychiatric consultations for patients who need it.

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Now, he said, “the patients here in the Community Living Center receive a very high level of care.”

The VA Boston system has also reeducated its staff and reinstituted a monthly medication review for psychiatric patients, using alternatives to medications whenever possible, he said.

Lynch said he has reached out to the families of the patients and is waiting for a response before meeting with them.

The patients were at the Community Living Center in Brockton, known as the nursing home unit. The center has 106 beds and offers respite care to veterans, including rehabilitation.

“While we aren’t allowed to divulge patient-specific information referenced in the report, we do realize that we fell short in providing timely comprehensive psychiatric evaluations in these instances,” Ng said in a statement Friday.

VA Boston provides inpatient, residential, and outpatient care to 65,000 veterans.

Lynch said the many committed doctors, nurses, therapists, and staff he met Friday formed a safeguard against poor care.

“The front line in our quest to provide high-quality health care to our veterans is the people in these buildings,” he said. “They’re good people. . . . There’s a patriotic dimension to the work that they’re doing.”

Lynch said he hopes that people in the Veterans Affairs system know they can approach him with any complaints.

“You would have a lot more whistle-blowers if there was reason to have them,” he said.

The findings by the federal Office of Special Counsel, an independent agency that investigates and prosecutes wrongdoing in the civil service, were provided in a June 23 letter to President Obama. Included were reviews of 10 cases across the country in which Department of Veterans Affairs employees complained about substandard care.

The Brockton whistle-blower was a staff psychiatrist who has not been identified. He has declined to comment, citing ongoing litigation, including his allegation that he was retaliated against by his superiors.

Ng said Friday he did not know of retaliation against the Brockton whistle-blower.

Mayor Bill Carpenter of Brockton, who toured the facility with Lynch, said he appreciated the representative’s presence.

“The fact that he came here today to tour the facility in person was reassuring,” he said.

Carpenter said that he and Lynch were given “unfettered access” to staff and patients, leaving him with the impression that patients are receiving good care.

Claire McNeill can be reached at claire.mcneill@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @clairemcneill.
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