MEMPHIS, Aug. 21, 2015 — Video footage of a Memphis Veterans Administration hospital shows that the hospital staff regularly leave quadriplegics and paraplegics unattended.
Former Memphis VA employee and whistleblower Sean Higgins alerted CDN to the videos, which were on YouTube, asking, “Why are they leaving these veterans unattended?”
Higgins said the patients are left alone for about an hour each evening during a staff meeting that is attended by all hospital staff. Higgins said this contradicts hospital policy, and that even during such meetings, at least one nurse is supposed to be at the nurses’ station.
Three videos show that there is no staff on the floor. One video shows a patient moving around in his wheelchair throughout the entire ward.
The unidentified patient states, “Once again, we’re left to the wolves.”
Lack of any staff on the floor means there is no one to care for patients who need assistance or if there is an emergency during the staff meeting.
In a fourth video, a nurse working with a patient isn’t wearing a proper gown. “You’re not gowning up to protect yourself; you’re gowning up to protect those veterans because they have compromised immune systems.” Higgins explained.
While the entire VA system has been under a cloud for more than a year, the Memphis VA has been especially hit by scandal, often triggered by reports from Higgins.
In April 2014, Higgins reported to the Joint Commission that the dialysis machines at the Memphis VA were not being cleaned properly.
It was later reported that the Memphis VA approved more than a million dollars in bonuses months after closing a therapeutic pool because the hospital claimed not to have enough funds.
Higgins said he was terminated last fall ostensibly for making a racial comment deemed to create a hostile work environment, but believes he was targeted for being a repeat whistleblower.
Higgins told CDN that he does not believe anyone will be held accountable for what’s happening in the spinal cord ward and said he was the only one reprimanded at the Memphis VA.
Willie Logan, press person for the Memphis VA, issued this statement:
Nursing staff are physically at or near nurses’ stations at all times. Each patient has a button to call the nurse when needed. A patient pushing his or her nurse call button notifies staff at the nurses’ station, sends a sound throughout the ward hallways, and turns on a light over the doorway of the patient’s room. On all wards, nurses and nursing staff go from room to room caring for patients and are nearby to respond to calls for assistance. When they hear calls while in other patient rooms, they are able to step to the doorway to see the patient’s room that is lighted, and immediately respond.
But Higgins said the videos speak for themselves and clearly show that the nurses are not at their nursing stations.
Video 1: spinal cord injury ward has no nurse on duty July 14, 2015
Video 2: spinal cord injury ward has no nurse on duty July 15, 2015
Video 3: Nurse in spinal cord injury ward without proper gown
Video 4: Spinal cord injury ward has no nurse on duty July 16, 2015