Fox 4 visits Tampa VA hospital to see changes made
Fox 4 investigation sparks changes at James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital. After we started hearing complaints of substandard conditions, we gave the VA a 24-hour heads up that we wanted to see what changes had been made.Photo: Video by fox4now.com
TAMPA - A Fox 4 investigation is sparking changes at the Tampa VA.
Two weeks ago, we told you about complaints of dirty conditions at the James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital. It's one of the busiest VA hospitals in the country serving 4000 soldiers a day.
So after we started hearing complaints of substandard conditions, we gave the VA a 24-hour heads up that we wanted to see what changes had been made.
On the day we visited, Dan Ashby also returned to see if the hospital kept its promise to improve things like a leaky ceiling and dirty bathrooms.
Ashby is no stranger to the Tampa VA. In 2010 his step-son Corey Kent was sent there to get better after his legs were blown off in Afghanistan. But three weeks after arriving Ashby got Corey out describing what he saw as "deplorable" conditions.
At the time, Sen. Bill Nelson's office called the hospital "filthy."
But those conditions seemed to have resurfaced. On July 15, Ashby snapped photos showing a leaky ceiling, a hole in the bathroom wall, dirty floors and a missing elevator floorboard.
"They should have their own staff and their own people going through the hospital," said Ashby, "checking for these kind of things."
Suzanne Tate, the Acting Associate Director of the Tampa VA, agreed to give us a tour of areas Ashby photographed two weeks ago.
"From what we saw it looked like dirty floors a hole in the bathroom wall," said Fox 4 reporter Matt Grant. "Is that acceptable when we're talking about the care of our veterans?"
"No it's not," said Tate.
"We took what he had [said] seriously," said Tate during our walking tour, "and wanted to make the changes."
Changes like stationing a full-time cleaning person at the hospital's busiest bathroom and fixing that hole in the wall.
"This is actually a panel that was removed for repairs," said Tate, "and now it is replaced."
Tate says the hospital will modernize all 277 bathrooms by next spring. The project will include replacing all sinks, toilets and tiles.
"We want to replace everything and have it fresh and new," said Tate. "And let people have confidence that it's clean."
Also being replaced are the hospitals ice machine units. The mini-fridge in one didn't work so the hospital brought in a full size one.
The elevator floorboard was repaired. And the ceiling with the water stain has been painted over.
Tate blames construction on a new $3.5 million wing of the hospital.
"Was the ceiling structurally sound, no water damage?," asked Grant.
"No water damage, no mold," said Tate. "No concerns anymore."
To address other concerns the VA set up a 24-hour hotline to report any cleanliness issues.
"We were very concerned when we saw the pictures that Mr. Ashby took," said Tate. "And we took immediate action at that point."
But one soldier's family told Ashby the hospital rushed some of those changes because they knew we were coming.
"They were running all night last night," said Michael Coleman, whose father-in-law is at the hospital. "They were upset 'Oh Fox is coming, Fox is coming.'"
Either way, Ashby says he's happy to see improvements at the hospital taking care of so many heroes.
"I think that probably pushed up the time table a little bit," said Ashby. "And that's good. That's what it needs. We need to push up the time table a lot."