Patients at Area VA Hospital Denied Soft Foods

Hospital officials get saucy.
Hospital officials get saucy.

No applesauce for you!

In a devastating account of medical malpractice, four nurses who work at the John Cochran VA Medical Center have come forward to reveal a litany of violations occurring inside their facility. Their disclosures were made public during a press conference held yesterday by Reps. Russ Carnahan and Bob Filner (CA) at Carnahan's district office.

Among the worst of the offenses: patients who had trouble swallowing were not given applesauce upon request. And it's not like they had to wait a few minutes to get people's attention. Or days. Nope, their applesauce wait-time was two years.

Yesterday's press conference revealed other grotesque details that made the place sound unfit for a movie set, let alone a facility serving our country's veterans.

Equipment, such as oxygen tubing for respiratory assistance, is chronically broken or unavailable; tools that could provide time-critical diagnoses are unavailable despite more than three years of requests; there are too few rooms in which to isolate people suffering from contagious diseases; there are too few nurses on site; and several patients go days without baths or clean linens.

One nurse, Wes Gordon (a veteran himself) presented hundreds of emails he'd sent to management requesting their attention for certain necessities, including applesauce, many of which went unanswered. When the nurse decided to bring his own applesauce to feed patients who couldn't swallow, he was quickly scolded by his superiors.

The hospital, located near Grand Center, came under a cloud this summer when it was found that sterilization problems at its dental clinic potentially exposed over 1800 veterans to blood-borne illnesses like Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV. (At least four Hepatitis cases have been discovered.)

Carnahan, who's called for multiple investigations into the joint, said that reports from the two independent bodies looking into problems at Cochran - the Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office - were expected to be made public by mid-Spring. A third, internal VA investigation, was reportedly concluded in November, but has yet to be made public.

Considering the shameful conditions of the hospital, why is it still allowed to operate? Lawmakers blame bureaucracy. For some ailing vets, that's a tough answer to swallow.

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