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Durham VA: Vets in viral photos got care they needed

Posted March 3

— Officials of the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Durham insisted Friday that the patients depicted in photos that went viral on social media last weekend received the medical care they needed.

Hanna McMenamin took the photos on Feb. 24 as she waited with her husband in the emergency department so he could get help with his back pain. One photo shows a man in a wheelchair who appears to be in severe pain, while a second shows another man who is so weak that he lay down on the floor of the hospital.

"I want to reassure you that the veteran that was lying on the floor was not neglected," DeAnne Seekins, director of the Durham VA Medical Center, said during a news conference.

"We spoke personally with the veteran, and he stated that he was on the floor because it was more comfortable for him. He said was extremely satisfied with the care that he received," Seekins said, adding that hospital staff repeatedly got the man up off the floor and tried to provide him a "more appropriate area for him to rest."

A couple of other veterans shown in the photos also complimented the hospital for their care, she said.

About 50 patients were in the emergency department that night, Seekins said, and hospital administrators have determined wait times were "appropriate" based on the triage performed by staff.

"Patients with less severe problems did wait longer than we would hope on that very busy day," said Dr. Ken Goldberg, hospital chief of staff. "To those, I apologize for that inconvenience, (but) our staff were always able to provide immediate care to the sickest veterans."

âAbsolutely horrible:â Photos show veterans left to wait in pain at Durham VA hospital

âAbsolutely horrible:â Photos show veterans left to wait in pain at Durham VA hospital

âAbsolutely horrible:â Photos show veterans left to wait in pain at Durham VA hospital

Jesse Lee, the veteran in the wheelchair in the photos, said that, while he was pleased with his medical care, he was still angry about having to wait more than five hours for it.

"That was terrible. It was one of the worst things I ever had to go through," Lee said Friday.

Goldberg said Lee and the other veterans in the photos were in the emergency department for about six hours, and two wound up being admitted to the hospital. Privacy regulations prevented him from going into detail about their conditions or care.

Seekins tried to dispel the notion that the veterans were sitting around for six hours waiting to be seen, saying that time included going through triage, seeing a physician and having tests conducted.

After an internal investigation, one Durham VA staffer was disciplined for "rude behavior" toward a patient that night, including being removed from patient care, said Dr. Greg Eagerton, the hospital's associate director for patient care.

Seekins said the episode demonstrates emergency department issues that need improvement, so the hospital plans to add recliners for its emergency waiting area and to adjust its "surge plan" to cut wait times during high-traffic times in the department.

"It saddens me that we didn't meet our own expectations that every veteran would receive dignity and respect at all times. Nothing less will be accepted here at this medical center," she said.

Steve McMenamin said Friday that hospital also fell short in its response to the situation.

"I kind of wanted them to apologize, say this is wrong and to fire the nurse, and the response has been completely opposite," McMenamin said. "There are a lot of people, because they can’t get fired, because their job is mostly protected, they’re there, and they don’t really care what happens because they’re getting their paycheck."


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  • Tim Orr Mar 4, 2017
    user avatar

    Ed Ray...Do you bother to read before you comment or do you just move your lips while you call words? TRIAGE is something that every hospital emergency room does. MASH used the term frequently. TRIAGE is how they determine who is more in need of their services....LIKE HAWKEYE DID IN TONS OF EPISODES. It also said he was laying on the floor because HE WANTED TOO. Try getting a clue before you try to comment on something you obviously don't understand.

  • Ed Ray Mar 4, 2017
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    I do not see people laying on the floor at any hospital. Watch MASH you say, and you say you served if you need and if you did in any combat area you would know that a MASH unit is a surgical unit to handle major events in a combat setting. It is not a hospital at all, it is meant to help soldiers that were wounded in combat.

  • Ed Ray Mar 4, 2017
    user avatar

    This is unbelievable she really thinks buying recliners is going to fix the problem. She needs to be fired and replaced with a VET. Adding a Vet would fix a lot of problems, because a Vet knows what other vets need. For one they do not need recliners.

  • Thomas White Mar 4, 2017
    user avatar

    I took a very sick friend to the Duke Emergency Room last January. He was seen in the first 5 minutes because he was very sick. While I waited in the emergency room there were people who claimed they had been there for 5 hours or more, but who had non-emergency issues. While the veteran is entitled to VA services it is not on a first come first serve basis. Those with non-life threatening conditions may take hours to be seen. Many of the patients listed could also use Medicare services or opt to use non-emergency services at the VA hospital.

  • Kiara Babel Mar 4, 2017
    user avatar

    Now that obamas out of office and a republican is in, all of a sudden there is problems with the VA , see how the media works?

  • K Hart Mar 3, 2017
    user avatar

    Those Veterans got care alright---- after enduring HOURS and HOURs waiting. Why does the VA ER not have a patient rep/nurse wandering the waiting room reassessing the patients? A patient’s initial triage can suddenly change as he/she has to sit in those chairs.

    BTW, Tim, it's PLANT (not implant). Getting your medical knowledge from a television show from the 70s/ 80s, wow, I can only imagine what your MOS in the military was or did you even serve?

    Spend any time in a VA ER or clinic, you will know that it is a common scene. Thankfully, someone was brave enough to show that the VA is still a mess. Veterans can be reassured that they STILL can give their life to their country by going to the VA for care.

  • Tim Orr Mar 3, 2017
    user avatar

    There don't need to be any changes. If you know what TRIAGE means you understand. If you don't, you need to watch more MASH. My treatment at the VA is quicker than the treatment my daughter and my grand children get at the civilian hospital. The pics are just from two more implants that don't know what they are talking about.