“Heroic” Negligence at the Albuquerque VA Hospital?

The 911 call, “We called our rapid response here at the hospital but unfortunately they won’t respond to him because he’s out of the main medical building … There’s a table of doctors sitting right next to him and none of them are doing s—”.  The VA hospital response, “Regardless of who was sitting at nearby tables , VA staff along with Kirtland AFB personnel immediately responded in providing basic life support to this Veteran. The staff were heroic in their attempts to save the life of this Veteran.”

Emergency Care Needed?  Please Contact Your Local Fire Department

A veteran goes into cardiac arrest at a VA Hospital facility.  No emergency response is forthcoming from the VA due to policy.  911 calls must be made to the Albuquerque Fire Department. The VA Hospital emergency room is a 5 minute walk and presumably even shorter by ambulance.  Albuquerque Fire Department’s closest location is one mile from the VA hospital.  According to witnesses, several doctors apparently sit eating in the canteen where this all occurs taking no action to save the veterans life.  Albuquerque Fire Department shows in a little over 10 minutes from the 911 call.  Despite the efforts of Albuquerque Fire Department EMT’s, the veteran dies.  A spokesman for the Veterans Hospital declares no wrongdoing, instead insisting that the VA staff “was heroic.”

Heroic! Really?

All of this was set forth in an article this morning from the Albuquerque Journal, 911 calls shed light on VA response.  The entire episode can be characterized no other way than disgusting and inexcusable.  It is hard to imagine how this does not amount to gross medical negligence.

Heroic?  Heroic?  This quote from the VA Hospital spokesman sums up everything (maybe not everything) that is wrong with the VA hospital and the entire VA hospital system.

The 911 recordings do indicate that nurses were trying to help the veteran.  Yet, it stands to reason that there were not a lot of treatment options in the cafeteria.  The nurses did do their job (as is often the case in medical negligence cases).  The VA Hospital system itself set this tragedy in motion with its policy of calling Albuquerque 911 for emergencies on their own medical premises.  It is hard to explain the doctors sitting idly nearby but giving them the benefit of the doubt, perhaps this too was a matter of VA Hospital policy.  Only time will tell assuming there is an adequate investigation which seems anything but certain.

The entire system from episodes like this to the secret waiting list and systemic negligence in the medical care of Veterans illustrates a callous arrogance and indifferent attitude to our nation’s veterans at the VA Hospital administrative level.

Arrogance and Indifference? 

On the same page with this article from the Albuquerque Journal was an article, NM lawmakers slam ABQ VA’s refusal to provide data.  The opening paragraph captures the gist of it:

“New Mexico’s congressional delegation is demanding answers from the Veterans Affairs Department after Albuquerque VA officials told congressional staffers this week that they must submit federal Freedom of Information Act requests to learn more about VA health care policies.”

While under Congressional investigation for their systemic neglect and incompetence, the VA is refusing to provide information to Congress!  The NM congressmen rightly point out that the VA hospital here—and presumably elsewhere—fail to appreciate the meaning of congressional oversight.

Congressional Oversight 

The disregard for veterans’ welfare is appalling.  The fact that the VA hospital would now try to obstruct a congressional investigation suggests not only a lack of respect for Congress, but also leads to the question of what are they hiding?

Recent press has reported that VA hospital facilities were destroying records following the disclosure of the secret waiting list.  Perhaps, the stalling of our congressman is simply another reflection of inefficiency and incompetence at the VA hospital where even the destruction and concealment of records cannot be accomplished in an orderly fashion.

Congressional Response 

The problems at the VA and the VA hospital system have been known for many years, arguably decades.  Every now and then the Congress will get riled up and voice disapproval and then very serious intent to fix the problems.  Curiously, it never happens.

The problems persist despite incredibly well documented problems at the VA.  Election cycles run and the voices die down.  In the meantime, our veterans are neglected, harmed and dying through this system-wide neglect.

Let’s see what happens this time, but I submit if you ask a veteran involved in the VA system, the response will be less than optimistic.  Of course, the veterans’ voices are rarely heard.

Attorneys Not Welcome Here 

Make no mistake that claims against the VA Hospital are difficult.  These are made more difficult by the severe limitations on attorney fees placed on these claims.

Medical malpractice claims are very hard and expensive.  This is so no matter whom the defendant.  They are no easier or cheaper when filed against the VA Hospital.  Unfortunately, many attorneys simply will not take these claims because of these limitations.

Of course this is by design. Presumably, the fee limitations are to protect the veteran.  This is far from reality since what the fee limitation does instead is discourage attorneys from taking these cases on to help veterans.

Do Not Give Up

This is what the VA hopes veterans will do.  The same holds true throughout the VA system from medical negligence claims to claims for veteran benefits.

Our veterans deserve better.  They have earned it.  Unfortunately, they must earn it time and time again even when they have returned home.

Share your thoughts