Veterans' group "thrilled" Congress investigating Tampa VA
Photo: Video by fox4now.com
FORT MYERS - A local veterans' group and the family of a brain damaged veteran are praising Congress tonight after the House Committee on Veterans Affairs announced they were launching a "very robust" investigation of the James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital.
"I'm thrilled," said Dan Ashby with the National Coalition for Patriots. "I would love to have a congressional hearing on not just the Tampa VA but all the VA's."
For weeks Fox 4 has been hearing complaints about the Tampa VA. This week, Natalie Carnegie told us the hospital's under-staffing left her father, a Korean War veteran, brain damaged after a build up of mucus in her father's feeding tube caused him to go into cardiac arrest.
She says staff told her to "get over it."
"What did you say back?," asked Fox 4 reporter Matt Grant.
"You get over it," said Natalie.
Ten months later the VA installed a camera hidden inside a smoke detector to covertly monitor the brain damaged veteran's condition. Natalie says that was done without her permission or knowledge.
We've also been hearing complaints of dirty conditions. Ashby photographed dirty floors, a leaky ceiling and a hole in the bathroom wall. The hospital fixed those issues after the photos were sent to the media.
There have also been concerns regarding care. Nick Battles, a Marine, complained he was receiving sub-standard care. So did Staff Sgt. Alex Dillman, who is recovering from an IED attack suffered in Afghanistan.
"If you're injured you're promised the best care," said Dillman. "And I don't think that's what we're getting here."
Dillman says the hospital accidentally left stitches in him and says catheter bags have been dumped in his trash can causing urine to spill urine on his floor.
On Thursday Florida Rep. Jeff Miller announced Congress is investigating complaints against the VA, including the use of covert cameras.
"I can't imagine why a covert camera would need to be placed in any patient's room," said Miller.
"I'm more than dumbfounded with what's taking place at [the James A] Haley" Veterans' Hospital," said Miller. "I can promise you that there's been a very robust investigation that has started."
Sen. Bill Nelson has called on the Inspector General of the VA Department to launch its own investigation.
Ashby says he's "thrilled" the VA is being investigated.
"This is a government-run facility and they feel protected. And that's the bottom line," said Ashby. "These men and women deserve better than what they're getting."
And Natalie Carnegie says her 80-year-old father also deserves better.
"I'm going to attempt to stay optimistic and keep praying that things get better here," said Natalie when reached by phone at the hospital Friday. "Right now things are pretty bad."
Dept. of Veterans Affairs statement
We called the White House press office to see if Pres. Obama was aware of the investigation and the soldiers' concerns. Instead, we were referred to the Dept. of Veterans Affairs in Washington DC, which sent us the following statement:
"VA places the highest priority on delivering high quality care while respecting the privacy of veterans. In some cases, it may be medically necessary to closely monitor patients to ensure they are receiving the care they need. In this particular case, nursing staff felt that such monitoring was necessary for the care of this patient; and a decision was made to provide close and constant monitoring via a camera.
Fixed camera monitoring, which is used widely in the healthcare arena, is selectively utilized in high intensity care areas where the safety of the patient requires visual observation. Delivering high quality, compassionate care to nearly 90,000 Veterans remains a top priority for the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital, and Veterans should be confident in the care they receive at Tampa.”