Report: VA Staffers Leave Veteran’s Body Unattended in Shower for 9 Hours, Try to Cover It Up

This May 19, 2014 photo shows a a sign in front of the Veterans Affairs building in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO / Karen BLEIER
Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

Staff members at a Florida VA hospital left a deceased veteran’s body unattended in the shower area for nine hours and then tried to cover up the mistake, according to a report from the Department of Veterans Affairs Administrative Investigation Board.

The incident took place in the hospice unit of the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System in Seminole in February, reported the Tampa Bay Times Friday.

The Times obtained the heavily redacted 24-page report through a Freedom of Information Act request issued in April.

More than 30 witnesses were interviewed for the report.

The report was largely redacted to hide the identities of the deceased veteran and staff members involved, but concludes that hospital staff “failed to provide appropriate post-mortem care,” FOX 13 Tampa Bay reported.

Hospital spokesman Jason Dangel said in a statement to WFTS that the hospital denied that it “covered up” the incident, but “the leadership team took swift and deliberate actions to investigate the incident” once it transpired.

He added that “appropriate personnel action was taken,” although he did not say that anyone was fired as a result of the incident.

Dangel said that the hospital ordered retraining and a change in procedures.

According to the report, hospice staff put the veteran’s body in the hallway of the hospice unit and left it there for an unspecified amount of time.

Staff then put the veteran’s body in the shower room and did not “check on the status of the decedent … for over nine hours.”

Staff acknowledged the increased risk of decomposition of the body while it was left in the shower room, the report said.

The review board added that patient charts and bed assignment charts were “difficult to follow” and allowed for “inconsistencies that could compromise the evaluation of staffing needs.”

U.S. Representative Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) issued a statement calling for “greater accountability” in the VA following the incident:

I am deeply disturbed by the incident that occurred at the Bay Pines VA hospital, and even more distressed to learn that staff attempted to cover it up. The report details a total failure on the part of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and an urgent need for greater accountability. Unsurprisingly, not a single VA employee has been fired following this incident, despite a clear lack of concern and respect for the Veteran. The men and women who sacrificed on behalf of our nation deserve better.

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