Vet's Body Left in Shower 9 Hours, Inquiry Says

Florida VA employees accused of trying to cover up incident
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 12, 2016 10:20 AM CST
VA Staff Accused of Cover-Up After Neglecting Vet's Body
File photo of a US Department of Veteran's Affairs Medical Center.   (AP Photo/Don Ryan, file)

Following a death in the hospice unit of Bay Pines VA Healthcare System in Florida in February, a veteran's body was moved to a hallway, and then to a shower room. There it sat unattended for nine hours before hospice officials realized and attempted to hide their mistake, a report finds. A VA investigation shows the "transporter" of the body had been asked to take it to the morgue, but the transporter responded by saying procedure actually dictated that the staff instead call dispatchers, reports the Tampa Bay Times. The report notes staff members never made that call, nor did they check to see that the death was properly reported. When they finally realized the body had not been taken to the morgue, an employee "falsely documented postmortem care," the reports says, per Fox 13.

The 24-page report, issued in April but just released through a Freedom of Information Act request, shows some employees initially blamed a staff shortage before changing their story. It also accuses workers of "failing to provide appropriate postmortem care"; showing "a lack of concern, attention and respect" for the veteran; and putting the body at an "increased risk of decomposition." A hospital rep says "appropriate personnel action was taken"—it isn't clear if anyone was disciplined or fired—as a result of the "unacceptable" findings. The hospital also issued policy changes and ordered that employees be retrained to ensure "each veteran is transported to their final resting place in the timely, respectful and honorable manner. America's heroes deserve nothing less." (More Department of Veterans Affairs stories.)

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