Unattended Veterans

Paralyzed Veterans of America reacts to recent video of disabled veterans left unattended at VAMC Memphis

In a recent video aired on Fox & Friends August 26, 2015, a paralyzed veteran who was housed on the spinal-cord injury inpatient ward at the Memphis VA Medical Center said he felt "thrown to the wolves" in the video, which showed a nursing station unmanned for an extended period. A former Memphis VA employee and whistleblower who saw the video, said patients are typically left alone for about an hour each evening during staff meetings attended by all hospital staff, despite a requirement that at least one nurse remain stationed at all times.

Sherman Gillums Jr., deputy executive director of Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) and a paralyzed veteran himself, said, “This video speaks to a need that our organization has stressed to VA leaders, Congress and the public for quite some time: VA needs more nurses in specialized care services like spinal cord injury centers.”

VA Needs to Increase Nursing Staff

The Memphis VA Medical Center operates one of 25 centers within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that specializes in the treatment and rehabilitation of spinal-cord injury and disease. As veterans with paralysis live longer due to advances in medicine and research, the need for additional staff to take care of these veterans over their lifetime has also risen. VA is currently the only provider in the U.S. that offers a nationwide, comprehensive system of care for persons who suffer the effects of traumatic injury, dysfunctions to the spinal cord, Multiple Sclerosis and other paralyzing conditions.

PVA's team of clinicians conducts annual site visits at VA Spinal Cord Injury & Disease Centers (SCI/D) and spoke sites staffed by SCI/D teams. The organization has documented years of understaffing in VA and is currently working with VA to develop a staffing methodology that will ensure nurse-to-patient ratios are adequate to meet demand in places like Memphis.

VA is the Best Choice for SCI/D Long-Term Care

“Memphis VA obviously needs some work. But the issue is bigger than one facility. We hear some tout 'Veterans Choice' as a panacea for VA's problems. However, it's a false choice for veterans who rely on the services only VA can provide, which is why investment in specialized services must continue. This means hiring more clinicians in places like Memphis,” said Gillums.

“We can no longer scrimp on the cost of freedom where our Nation's most disabled heroes are concerned.”

“In the military, we are expected to answer the call of duty. The same philosophy applies in our VA hospitals where providers are expected to be there for our veterans whenever needed. That starts by ensuring we have enough providers to do the job,” Gillums concluded.

 

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