VA Fever Screening Purchases Endanger Veterans' LivesBy Donald Maye, Published Nov 09, 2020, 12:01pm EST
The US Department of Veterans Affairs has spent millions of dollars on a hodgepodge of 12 different fever screening systems, including many 'tablets' which have significant accuracy risks, an IPVM investigation has found.
Considering the large quantity of temperature screening tablets purchased, including 166 Meridian tablets IPVM has already exposed, coupled with the vulnerable population they are intended to serve, the lives of Veterans are at risk.
IPVM analyzed Federal records, verifying VA purchase orders of at least 12 different models of temperature screening devices, totaling $4.5 million. Many of the devices procured, in particular, the hundreds of fever tablets/kiosks, have serious risks in design and implementation.
Worse, IPVM tried for a month to inform and warn the VA of these risks yet has not received any material response.
Thermal Screening Device Purchases
IPVM discovered 12 different thermal screening systems sold to the VA:
Alarmingly, there was no apparent standardization to the purchase of these medical devices by the VA. Quality ranges from FDA 510(K) cleared at the high-end to low-cost, unreliable tablets using thermopile sensors that, as IPVM’s independent testing demonstrates, have far inferior resolution to world febrile screening standards.
In total, $4.5 million in purchase orders were identified in federal records, with 12 separate vendors awarded contracts, as shown below:
No Response From VA
IPVM requested comment from both VA Press Secretary, Christina Noel, and Chief of Staff of the Office of IT Program Integration, Susan Perez, several times over the past month, and we have received no response. If the VA responds, we will update.
Meridian Tablets Sold To Pennsylvania VA
IPVM identified a solicitation awarded to Document Strategies for 166 Meridian Tablets, which a VA contracting officer confirmed. IPVM testing of the Meridian tablet shows it routinely misses elevated temperatures. Furthermore, Meridian is deceptive, claiming they are not medical devices and obscuring the product is made in China. These tablets are to be used across the Pennsylvania VA system:
The seller of these tablets, Document Strategies, has no background or experience selling thermal devices or medical devices to the federal government. The Georgia-based company bills itself as:
Indeed, previous contracts awarded to Documents Strategies include copy machine rentals and computer services. Document Strategies did not respond to IPVM's request for comment.
Low Resolution Tablets Reliability Problems
Furthermore, routinely-missed elevated temperatures undermine secondary screenings, as employees or patients screened by low-resolution tablets will not be accurately flagged in the first place.
Fever Screening Device Substitution On Award
In one purchase, the VA substituted one tablet for another that the VA determined was an 'equivalent product'. The solicitation awarded to Document Strategies for Meridian originally specified Goodview tablets or “equivalent product”:
This contract will include procurement of the Goodview Dynamic Detection Display Temperature Scanner Kiosk with Facial Recognition and Floor Stand with Square Base or an equivalent product for all VISN 4 facilities.
Both of these products (Goodview and Meridian) were rushed out this year, have no FDA approval, and have no scientific or laboratory approval that we could find. Treating medical devices like commodity widget purchases increases the risk to the VA.
No Expertise in Thermal Devices
Like Documents Strategies, the sellers of these systems displayed no expertise or background in this technology prior to their VA contracts. This is reinforced by their own marketing:
- Turtle Creek Construction (Aurora Series): "Contracting Made Easy"
- SPS Industrial (INSIZE): "We’re a broad-line supplier of maintenance, repair and operating (MRO) supplies and equipment "
- Access Products INC (Turing): Specialties listed - "Lighting" "Flooring" "Toner"
Explicit Disregard For FDA Guidelines
In the solicitation awarded to Turtle Creek Construction for 48 Aurora Tauri Series tablets, the VA contradicts FDA guidelines, alleging temperature screening devices are not used for medical purposes and, hence, do not require FDA approval. The FDA disagrees - they consider these medical devices.
Aurora Multimedia CEO Responds
We contacted the sellers of tablets, only Turtle Creek responded, by way of their supplier Aurora Multimedia. CEO Paul Harris acknowledged general industry problems ("Many of the companies rebranding sell online to any and everyone which hurts the industry") but emphasized that his company's product is accurate. We have not tested Aurora Multimedia. Aurora Multimedia's CEO's in-depth comments are shared here.
VA Inspector General Touts Fever Cameras
In July, the VA Inspector General issued a review on their pandemic response. The report touts the use of thermal cameras for screening patients and staff. However, even in this report, the IG indicates they are not following FDA guidelines, as screening individuals "as they entered" a building increases the likelihood of incorrect readings due to temperature variations.
This demonstrates a fundamental disconnect in the government over the limitations of existing temperature screening technologies at the highest levels of the VA.
Veterans' Lives Endangered, Sellers Profit
According to the VA's own data, over 80,000 individuals in the VA network have contracted COVID; more than 4,000 have died. As America’s largest integrated healthcare system serving 9 million veterans, with medical experts across every major specialty, the VA can and should do better for those in its care.
As IPVM has reported throughout 2020, this fits an ongoing trend of considerable amounts of money being spent on devices that may not help public safety. Deceptive sellers continue to profit selling a false sense of security to unwitting buyers.
Donald Maye is a former active duty U.S. Army Field Artillery Officer and 2007 graduate of the United States Military Academy.
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