Seattle VA refuses to help patient who is parked outside the ER Entrance

 In Veterans

Stories  from Seattle to nearly every city across the country demonstrate the serious lack of caring at many of the VA hospitals in this country. A case in point from Seattle:

Just a few feet from the door…”Call 911″

Donald Siefken is from Kennewick, Washington. He was getting ready to drive his wife to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport for a red-eye flight when he stepped down and heard a “snap.” As he dropped his wife off, the foot began to swell and become painful. So he drove himself to the VA hospital in Seattle. By the time he got there, he couldn’t stand on the foot. But despite him being just a few feet from the emergency room entrance, hospital staff refused to come and help him out of his car.

They not only refused to come and help him, they told him to call 911 and then hung up on him. He then had to call 911 for assistance.

A Captain and 3 firefighters from Engine Company 30 in Seattle arrived to wheel him into the ER. Their response was far more costly to the taxpayers than a simple assistance from ER personnel would have been. Not to mention a severe lack of help for a man in pain.

The hospital put a boot on Siefken’s foot, prescribed hydrocodone for the pain, and sent him home. He refused to take the pain killer because his driving would have been impaired. So he drove all the way back to Kennewick from Seattle that night, took a pain killer when he got home, and climbed into bed.

In violation of Federal Law

The Seattle Times wrote,

A federal law called the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) generally requires most hospitals to conduct a medical screening of anyone who shows up seeking emergency treatment.

The law’s so-called “250-yard rule” clarifies that hospitals have an “affirmative obligation” to treat patients — whether they make it inside an ER or not — when they arrive on a hospital campus.

“If you are close to the emergency department, they should basically come up and wheel you into the hospital,” said Barbara Tomar, federal affairs director for the Washington, D.C.-based American College of Emergency Physicians.

Seattle VA hospital

Lack of caring, lack of accountability

The Seattle VA fluffed and hemmed around the issue, first stating that it was standard procedure to refer people to 911 in order  to protect themselves from liability. Then they said that perhaps someone should have assisted Mr. Siefken. Then they stated that his case wasn’t an emergency anyway and they really didn’t have to assist him.

Technically, VA hospitals aren’t included in the EMTALA law, but say they “voluntarily” comply with  it. A broken foot may not be an emergency to some, but it can pose complications that make it a priority, according to the Federal Affairs Director of  the American College of Emergency Physicians.

Common decency

Mr. Siefken met with the hospital’s Chief of Staff on Tuesday. They have apologized and promised to change procedure so this doesn’t happen again. Meanwhile, his foot has not fully healed. The hospital said they’re sorry.

This story is but one example of the failure of VA hospitals around the country. From refusing help when it is needed, to shoving veterans aside for months even years, and then covering it up based on “regulations.” It’s not about rules, or regulations or laws- it is about common decency and caring. Our Military veterans deserve the best care, not the worst.

Sunday night,  veteran Thomas Murphy committed suicide in the parking lot of the Phoenix VA hospital. According to local Fox news, he wanted to ‘make a statement.’

Frustration with the VA is epidemic from coast to coast, with some of the hospitals far worse than others. Whether it is sheer laziness or deliberate maliciousness, the attitudes of VA officials – and employees – are deeply disturbing.

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