Photo: BAYPINES.VA.GOV

VA Staff Left A Veteran’s Body In Shower For Hours

A hospital investigation revealed staff members at the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System left a veteran’s body in a shower room for more nearly 10 hours, then tried to cover up a number of protocol violations.

A report of the investigation was released Sunday and obtained by the Tampa Bay Times. It provided no information about the veteran, who died in February.

The report showed that some hospice staff violated Veterans Affairs policies by “failing to provide appropriate post-mortem care.” Staff members ordered a transport to move the veteran’s corpse to a morgue, but transporters said for them to follow proper protocol, which was to contact dispatchers instead.

However, a request for dispatchers never came. VA staff then moved the body from the hospice to a shower room where it remained for over nine hours.

The report found that some staffers “falsely documented” the incident and failed to follow procedures for reporting a death, and lied about the hospice being short staffed. The staffers reportedly blamed the confusion of a communication problem, which never occurred.

 

Hospital spokesman Jason Dangel call the incident “unacceptable” and “appropriate personnel action was taken.”

Dangel didn’t say whether any workers were fired or disciplined, citing employee confidentiality rules. However, Bay Pines ordered retraining and a change in procedures as a result.

Photo: SCOTT KEELER | Times (2014)

According to the Tampa Bay Times, the report also found:

 

 

• Hospice staff failed to check a 24-hour nursing report that would signal whether the death was properly reported and failed to ask personnel involved about the handoff.

• Questioned later by investigators, some responsible for oversight at the hospice blamed a shortage of clerical staff — a claim they later recanted.

• Staff failed to update a nursing service organizational chart, hampering efforts to determine who was in charge.

• The hospice unit lacks a structured plan for educating personnel on best practices.

“We feel that we have taken strong, appropriate and expeditious steps to strengthen and improve our existing systems and processes within the unit,” Dangel said to the Times. “It is our expectation that each veteran is transported to their final resting place in the timely, respectful and honorable manner. America’s heroes deserve nothing less.”