3 Memphis VA Hospital patient deaths probed - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

3 Memphis VA Hospital patient deaths probed

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    Friday, October 4 2013 3:43 PM EDT2013-10-04 19:43:45 GMT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

The Memphis Veterans Administration hospital on Jefferson Avenue is attempting to unmask more details behind the deaths of three of their patients in 2012.

The investigation has led to the firing of one doctor, a new set of guidelines for the staff, and the tightening of the hospital's emergency room procedures.

MORE: Memphis VA center inspected for inadequate care after patient deaths
DOWNLOAD the report: Healthcare Inspection – Emergency Department Patient Deaths' Memphis VAMC, Memphis


In a career that spanned 54 years in the military retired Army Brigadier General Dr. Clara Adams-Ender knew made caring for the needs of soldiers in war and in peace her top priority during her stellar career in nursing. While her visit to the Memphis VA Hospital was welcomed it was hard to overcome the clouds of uncertainty the deaths of three patients has placed over the hospital's reputation.

Seventy-four-year old military veteran, Memphian James Lowe, jokingly admits a wide variety of medical treatments for more than a decade have made him a "walking hospital."

"Eyes, stomach. I have a hiatal hernia," Lowe said.

But, while he credits his continuing survival to the staff at the Memphis VA Hospital, the results of a federal investigation into the deaths of three of his fellow vets treated in the same emergency room he's often frequented, is to say the least disturbing to him.

"I hate to see that. I hate to hear about fellow service members that expired for some reason or another," he said.

"The Office of the Inspector General released a report on an investigation they performed in May 2013 on three deaths that occurred in our emergency department over one year ago," said Dr. Christopher Marino, Memphis VA Chief of Staff.

"The Office of the Inspector General released a report on an investigation they performed in May 2013 on three deaths that occurred in our emergency department over one year ago," said Dr. Christopher Marino, Memphis VA Chief of Staff.

In a hastily arranged and brief news conference outside the hospital Thursday, Dr. Marino, read a prepared statement acknowledging the details contained in the Veteran Affairs Inspector General's report. It cited one patient died after being given a drug he was fatally allergic to. Another was given multiple sedatives and was not properly monitored. The third death was attributed to the patient not being treated for extremely high blood pressure.

Though no criminal actions were noted, the hospital dished out its own discipline.

"The physician involved in the care of two of the patients referenced in the report no longer works at our medical center," Dr. Marino said.

In addition to the firing, Dr. Marino said the VA has complied with all of the recommendations made by the Inspector General's report, including adding a tracking system to determine root causes, nurse educators assigned to observe nurses on duty in the emergency room, and having all patients in the main ER placed on cardiac monitors to be observed by technicians and staff.

Ironically, the hospital's troubles just happen to coincide with a visit from famed retired African-American Army BG Dr. Adams-Ender, who reminded an audience of hospital personnel how important their patients are.

"Veterans need that kind of care," Dr. Adams-Ender said. "They paid the price. Let me tell you, they have sacrificed. They served their country well and we owe that much to them."

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