Venting Over the VA

  1. Although I've seen some other threads about the VA, none were appropriate for my venting/questions. So, here goes.

    I am a disabled veteran, discharged from the US Army in 1993 because of a knee injury. Since my discharge, I have become a CRNA, so I am able to look at the VA from both the perspective of a patient and a health care provider. The things I've seen at the Wichita VA that absolutely terrify me. I'll give a couple of specific examples later, but I have seen nurses at the VA sitting around nursing stations ignoring all call lights, administrative staff with no compassion, and incompetence bordering on the criminal in some medical staff. I don't know if these problems exist VA-wide. or are just a local problem. I really don't know what I'll do when the time for knee surgery comes. I'm afraid I'll hold out longer than I should because of my fear of the place.

    Examples: Shortly after beginning nursing school, I had to have some lab work done at the VA. I watched lab techs going from patient to patient, drawing blood, working on the computer, handling urine specimens, etc, without ever changing gloves. Of course, I complained about this to the patient representative, and was told there was nothing wrong with the practice, as long as the techs could not see any contamination on the gloves. I took my complaint all the way up the chain to the medical director, who told me that what was being done was perfectly in compliance with universal precautions! Finally, six months later, the patient representative approached me, and proudly told me she had the policy changed, not because what they were doing was wrong, but because it did seem "kind of icky."

    2. Not long ago, the local VA remodeled the check-in area. The remodel was more poorly designed than the set up it replaced, with nowhere for people waiting to check in to sit. I pointed this out, again to the patient representative, telling her that a large number of disabled vets have orthopedic conditions that could make standing in line for a long time painful. She agreed, and said she would see what she could do. Chairs were then placed RIGHT NEXT to the check-in counter, so someone waiting to check in could listen in on everyone else's medical problems.

    3. Not long ago, the local burn center received a patient from the VA. It seems that no one checked the k-thermia pad in the OR, and the patient received third degree burns over his lumbar region, buttocks and thighs from the equipment being set too high. The burns were severe, and required a prolonged stay in the burn center. The patient required skin grafting over most of the area. I know the incident occurred, but has been hushed up by the VA.

    Mostly, this post is to vent. However, if anyone out there has any ideas how I can be seen for service connected disabilities outside of the VA, I'd love to hear them. Also, if any VA employees out there know where I can file complaints above the level of the local VA, I'd love to know about it. Thanks.

    Kevin McHugh
    Last edit by kmchugh on Apr 8, '02
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    About kmchugh

    Joined: Mar '02; Posts: 2,000; Likes: 66


  3. by   momrn50
    Can't help with who to contact, maybe you congressman or state senator??? Do understand about your concerns having received patients fron VA hospitals who were dirty, unshaved, moldy underwear...what way is this to treat our veterans?? Also horror stories of the lack of care in the VA hospitals themselves...good luck to you and God bless.
  4. by   James Huffman
    What you tell about is an outrage, but -- sadly -- does not surprise me in the least, Kevin.

    Contacting members of Congress, Department of Veterans Affairs, etc., will do absolutely no good. These folks know the horror stories, and more.

    What would solve the VA Hospital tragedy is a simple solution, and one that will never be used: close them. Immediately. They are an entrenched bureaucracy, and that bureaucracy will do nothing more than band-aid solutions, and that only when forced.

    After closing the VA Hospitals, the federal government could provide for free, no-strings attached care for veterans at any hospital of the vet's choosing. I have no figures in front of me, but can virtually guarantee that there would be enormous cost savings by simply cutting out the bureaucracy, and letting other providers compete for veterans' care.

    Another solution -- less desirable, but it would probably do the job -- is to provide VA Hospitals, and have them run by companies that bid for the management. (I'm talking about companies like HCA, Humana, etc.)

    The tragedy of the VA system is that those being cared for there are usually folks who can't afford to go elsewhere. When people CAN afford to go somewhere else, they do. So these poor, often handicapped or disabled men and women are treated with health care that would have shamed the Soviet Union.

    VA Hospitals have no competition, and it shows. Those who have to compete learn how to serve others. The VA, sadly, has never learned to serve. The losers are their "patients," though the term "inmate" might be more appropriate.

    Jim Huffman, RN
  5. by   night owl
    Unfortunately not all VA's are prison camps for the indigent soldier.
    Believe me there are many a hospital which our soldiers returned from to our VA nursing home that showed just how neglected they really were. They have returned with more bedsores than you can imagine, personal hygiene that would scare a scabie out of a warm, dark burrow and it is very well documented in their admitting notes the condition in which they return.
    I am only one nurse, but I've worked with many a great nurse who have shown nothing less than respect and great dignity for our country's finest for which we have performance award after performance award to which it can be proven. It is a shame that the poor condition of some veterans across the united states reflect the care that is given to them and compassion that is felt towards them to reflect all VA's in general. I can proudly say that I am a VA Nurse who has shown enormous
    compassion and has delivered the best possible care that I know how in the name of freedom for 24 years.
    Last edit by night owl on Apr 8, '02
  6. by   James Huffman
    My complaints are with the VA system, and NOT with individual nurses or other staff. I have known caring, professional nurses who worked in the system, and did their best to provide quality care to these men and women. My apologies if the meaning of my original post was misunderstood. I applaud those who seek to light a candle and improve the care and quality of nursing in the VA system.

    Jim Huffman, RN
  7. by   lgcv
    I have a va disability as well. I don't go to VA for treatment/sugery. I am responsible for the bill, but I know the care I receive is adequate. I would suggest you do the same, there is know reason to have anything done there if you can afford to go elsewhere.
  8. by   135ctv
    The Wichita VA Hospital participates in the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) accreditation process. You can submit complaints to them. Instructions are on their website:

    From my own experience, Patient Reps seem to be very ineffective. The rep I have dealt with over the past six months has accomplished little.

    I had an endoscopy at a VA hospital two months ago (was given demerol). After the endoscopy, I began to have muscle spasms in my abdomen and legs. They scheduled me for a PIPPIDA a few hours after the endoscopy. I could not complete the PIPPIDA as the muscle spasms were too severe for me to lie still for the test. They left me alone in the room for the PIPPIDA. I finally called loud enough that someone came. I told them what was happening and kept saying "something's wrong". The nurse called the Radiologist and my GI doctor. They were more concerned with the fact that the test was stopped than with my condition. They gave me another appointment for the test and walked away.

    The spasms lasted for 2 1/2 days. I called my primary care physician at the VA and she said that there was nothing she could do, I needed to contact the GI doctor on call. That doctor did not answer the phone (it just rang). I finally reached the doctor who performed the endoscopy and all he said was "Well, I don't know, everything went fine with the endoscopy". I tried to reach the GI doctor, but he did not return my calls.

    I still don't know what caused this. I have had both and endoscopy and a PIPPIDA in the past (outside the VA), with no problems. I have also had demerol in the past with no problems. I have still not recieved any answers from the VA on why this occurred.
    Last edit by 135ctv on Apr 9, '02
  9. by   135ctv
    Mice and maggot infestation at Kansas City VA Medical Center:
  10. by   ktwlpn
    [QUOTE]Originally posted by night owl
    [B]Unfortunately not all VA's are prison camps for the indigent soldier.
    Believe me there are many a hospital which our soldiers returned from to our VA nursing home that showed just how neglected they really were. They have returned with more bedsores than you can imagine, personal hygiene that would scare a scabie out of a warm, dark burrow and it is very well documented in their admitting notes the condition in which they return. Long term care here-my last 3 hospital returns had stage 3 decubes (2 with sacral and one with bilat heels) Our residents always loose weight during hospitilization....I know how it is in acute care -been there and done that-all of our patients deserve that-vets or elderly or helpless babies....