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On the Money: State Bought $120K Medical Dummy Sources Say Has Never Been Used

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Sam Shane Sam Shane
Sam Shane graduated from the University of Minnesota with a B.A. in...
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STUDIO CITY (CBS13) — A state agency tasked with representing veterans spent nearly $120,000 of taxpayer dollars on a dummy, an On the Money investigation has learned.

Documents obtained by CBS13 show the department colloquially known as CalVet spent $119,887.85 for a state-of-the-art medical manikin in 2010.

But instead of being used to train medical workers, sources said since the manufacturer set up the dummy, called iStan, it has been gathering dust in a room at the Veteran Affairs home in West Los Angeles. In fact, sources said no one at the facility even knows how to use it.

“This is why state workers get a bad name,” said an insider who came to CBS13 to blow the whistle. “You might as well flush the money down the toilet.”

It’s the same kind of equipment used by universities with advanced medical schools, like UC Davis.

Second and third-year medical students at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento train on the devices to simulate both routine procedures and emergency situations.

The iStan manikin breathes, cries, bleeds and even has a heartbeat.

With computers and video monitors, instructors can watch from a nearby room and set up emergencies to see how students react — and train them for certain scenarios.

Dr. Aaron Bair oversees the cutting-edge training on the manikin simulators.

But Bair said not every organization understands how they work and what is required to program and operate them.

“There are a lot of folks, very well-intentioned folks, that have gone out, bought a simulator, spent a fair amount of money, and then have not done any kind of long-term strategic planning for support,” he said.

“Those simulators end up in a closet gathering dust, and don’t really help anybody,” he said.

Case in point: the California Department of Veterans Affairs.

The money to buy it came from US taxpayers.

“It’s doing no good,” said taxpayer advocate Jon Coupal.

He called the purchase another embarrassment to the California Department of Veterans Affairs.

In February, a CBS13 On the Money investigation uncovered how CalVet officials spent $82,000 on trips that appear to be unnecessary and in violation of Gov. Jerry Brown’s direct order which prohibits unnecessary travel. But when CBS13 tried to question Brown about whether his top officials at Veterans Affairs were taking unnecessary trips instead of investigating when CBS13 tried to question Brown about the travel, he walked away and called a CBS13 producer a “clown.”

“This guy’s a clown here,” Gov. Brown said, turning back to the CBS13 producer.

“Will you talk to us?” the producer said.

“You make a little appointment.” the Governor responded. “We’ll look at your reports, we’ll do it right.”

CBS13 tried to make an appointment, and tried to show them our investigation, but Gov. Brown and his aides refused to interview, instead saying, “Seems you may have misunderstood [Gov. Brown].”

So it may not come as a surprise that Gov. Brown’s office also refused to meet with us to answer questions about the $120,000 manikin that has been collecting dust.

“It makes you feel ashamed,” the source said.

Not only is Gov. Brown refusing to talk about how they’re spending money at CalVet, but officials are also keeping quiet.

The department would only release a statement saying they “will not speculate on the reasons for that purchase” and “we are reviewing its use.”

“I would say that’s a story that’s been played out over and over,” Bair said.

So, what is clearly a valuable learning tool for medical students at UC Davis Medical Center may be only a dust collector for taxpayers at a home run by the California Department of Veterans Affairs.

The department told us in May it planned on hiring someone to use this manikin.

CBS13 asked to come along for a training session. Department spokesman J.P. Tremblay still hasn’t responded.

FULL STATEMENT FROM CALVET

CalVet’s executive team oversees the Department’s programs and operations with the ultimate mission of serving California’s veterans with innovative, quality services and care. The Department has achieved numerous successes over the past few years, to include ramping up and opening five new state veterans homes.

Throughout this process CalVet has maintained its commitment to the well-being of California’s veterans and the quality of care provided to veterans in our state veterans homes. The Department executes this task even at a time of continuous budget shortfalls and a downturned economy and yet it continues to provide California’s veterans with premier care in a fiscally responsible manner.

In the course of its efforts, the executive team actively scrutinizes operations to ensure the efficient and effective use of its resources. As part of these efforts, a high priority is placed on increasing revenues and decreasing costs in the operation of the veterans homes. CalVet is becoming a state-wide, integrated system of long-term care, that provides top quality service and care while operating the homes efficiently and effectively.

The current executive team was not on board and not involved in the decision to purchase the i-Stan mannequin and will not speculate on the reasons for that purchase. However, we are reviewing its use and how this state-of-the art teaching tool can, is and will be utilized to ensure the quality of care at our veterans homes is maintained to the highest standards.

As part of the long-term care that is provided in our state veterans homes we are required to afford our staff with on-going training. The use of CPR mannequins is a standard clinical practice to ensure certification of staff.

CalVet is committed to delivering the best quality of care to the veterans living in our homes, while also maintaining the public trust and providing service in a cost-effective way that ensures our staff is well-trained and the residents in our home are well-treated and served.

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