Two weeks ago, a Vietnam Veteran bitten by ants over 100 times while in the care of an Atlanta VA nursing home died from unrelated issues. But when two other veterans were also bitten by ants, the VA removed the director of the facility, Leslie Wiggins, and shifted other personnel away from patient care.
Vietnam Veteran bitten
Joel Marrable, 74, was an Air Force veteran who served in Vietnam. When his daughter, Laquana Ross, visited him on September 6, she noticed multiple red marks and swelling on his hands, according to wsbtv. He was at the Eagle’s Nest Community Living Center, which is inside the Atlanta VA Medical Center.
“When I took his hand out, it was really swollen, and he flinched. I was really worried and asked a worker if she could come take a look. She said, ‘Well, it’s getting better…you know…from the ants…’
She said my dad had been covered in ants. One of the nurses came in and turned on the lights and just screamed. She told me, ‘We thought Mr. Marrable was dead. We didn’t know what happened with all the ants. We jumped into action, took him into the shower and covered his nose so he could breathe while we washed them off.’”
She told the hospital administration they had to move her dad to a different room, which they did on September 7. He died hours later, but from the ant bites. He had cancer for three years prior.
The hospital hired a pest control company, stripped the bedrooms, and removed all open containers of food. But not everyone was happy with their response.
“Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., expressed outrage last week about the incident and the VA’s lack of communication after it occurred.
Isakson, who is chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, spoke to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie on Tuesday and staff for Isakson said the senator “believes veterans in Georgia need to be reassured that the VA is doing everything in its power to ensure an incident like this never happens again.”
Lawrence B. Connell, VHA chief of staff, and Renee Oshinski, VHA deputy undersecretary for health for operations and management, were in Atlanta this week working with Ann Brown, the new director for the Atlanta VA Health Care System, to conduct an onsite review of the nursing home’s operations “to ensure it has the right leaders and staff in place to provide the highest quality health care and services possible,” according to the VA statement.
Seven Atlanta VA staff members were also moved into nonpatient-care positions while members of an administrative investigation board from outside the southeast network investigate the handling of the incident involving ants biting patients.”
Staffing changes, retraining of personnel, investigations…all of these things have occurred in all VA medical centers across the nation that have undergone horrific care issues. But when push comes to shove, the VA always seems to be at the wrong end of the curve. According to the article in Stripes, there were other “ongoing issues” within that region. They did not specify the nature of those issues. The VA hopes to improve the quality of care for all 1.4 million veterans in their region.
They always do. But when will it be accomplished?
Featured photo: Screenshot via WSBTV of Eagle’s Nest CLC in Atlanta/Joel Marrable, USAF veteran from Military ID.
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Author: Faye Higbee
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