National News

Daughter of veteran who died wants answers from V-A on hiring practices

Posted December 6, 2017 1:08 p.m. EST

— A Quad City woman is questioning why a surgeon who had been banned from practicing in one state was hired by the Veteran's Hospital in Iowa City and allowed to operate on her dad, who died from complications after surgery for a brain tumor.

"Who thought it was okay to make that decision? Who thought it was okay to put our veteran's life at risk by hiring a physician that should have never been hired?", said Amy McIntire, a nurse who works in Davenport.

Amy's father Rick Hopkins of Donahue was a spry 65-year-old who rode a Harley and worked at a local dairy farm.

"He was 65-years-old and he could still manhandle calves. He was a farm hand, but he did everything. And, there was not an animal that Dad ever met that didn't just adore him," McIntire said.

He was also an Army veteran, spending two years working on tanks in Germany.

In July, Hopkins was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He was operated on at the V-A in Iowa City by Dr. John Henry Schneider.

"There was just a cascade of complications, I mean we couldn't catch our breath because it was one thing after another and it honestly felt like they were being reactive, rather than proactive in his care," McIntire said.

After four surgeries on his head in less than four weeks, Rick Hopkins died.

Shortly after, a USA Today reporter called the family inquiring about who the surgeon was.

"And we told her it was Dr. Schneider. Now I read the report. I feel just so betrayed," she said.

Betrayed, because Dr. Schneider had a record filled with red flags.

USA Today uncovered Schneider had at least a dozen malpractice lawsuits, and was barred from practicing in Wyoming after his medical license was revoked in 2014 after a patient died.

The VA responded to USA Today and said Schneider was improperly hired and blamed "incorrect guidance" by agency officials.

Federal law prohibits the V-A from hiring physicians whose license has been revoked by a state board.

"What I know is that the VA hired him illegally. He should have never had his hands on my father, the outcome could have been completely different," said McIntire, who is a practicing nurse.

"I am just furious, I can't express how angry I am. I think the V-A needs to be held accountable. I think they need to change their practices. Veterans have done so much for our country. Don't subject them to sub-standard care," she said.

According to the USA Today report, Schneider had racked up 15 malpractice claims and settlements in Montana and Wyoming.

"He was accused of costing one patient bladder and bowel control after placing spinal screws incorrectly, he allegedly left another paralyzed from the waist down after placing a device improperly in his spinal canal. The State of Wyoming revoked his medical license after another surgical patient died," the report states.

The V-A moved to fire Schneider last week, but he resigned instead.

"We had so much trust in him. He was so charismatic. And after the complications, he said this is just normal, he's going to be fine. We are going to send him to the brain trauma unit in Minnesota. He's going to be fine," she recalled.

McIntire and her family are struggling with the "what if's", and the revelations about the doctor.

"It breaks my heart because before he went in for surgery, he said he didn't know if he was going to come out of this. I kept reassuring him, 'Dad, they have the best physicians there, you're going to be fine'."

"Little did I know, he was right."