The Department of Veteran’s Affairs just can’t seem to get its affairs in order. As one scandal after another has rocked it, various administrators and officials have stepped in, promising to clean things up, but that hasn’t stopped shocking incidents from continuing to make the headlines, such as the one involving the recent, disgusting discovery in a veteran’s wound.
A veteran in Talihina, Oklahoma, died while waiting for VA care at one of the regional hospitals. The veteran, Owen Reese Peterson, died from sepsis, a systemic infection resulting from bacteria in a wound, and was later found to have maggots in his wound.
The veteran’s son, Raymie Parker, said he pleaded for 21 days for the staff to change his father’s wound dressings. Raymie says he went to everyone he could find to ask for more urgent care:
“During the 21 days I was there … I pled with the medical staff, the senior medical staff, to increase his meds so his bandages could be changed. I was met with a stonewall for much of that time.” — Raymie Parker, son of the deceased
Owen Peterson died of the infection on October 3 at the age of 73.
The response from the VA was immediate: four staff members resigned before termination proceedings could begin. The outgoing staff includes a physician’s assistant and 3 nurses. There is no word about what, if any, administrative or legal action will be taken against those 4 or against other staff.
For a patient to die under these circumstances is shocking. The VA continues to be “Exhibit A” of why government health care doesn’t work. This is an appalling breach of even minimal professional standards of care, and people are shocked and upset with good reason.
The VA can ultimately never satisfy its “double mandate” mission, being what it is: a hybrid entity expected to provide all the services of a private medical center, combined with a government agency that is ultimately responsible to senior elected officials in ways totally unrelated to health care and often at odds with the priorities of a more efficient, private hospital.
What about a small-government solution? A voucher system with the VA scaled back to merely handing out coupons for insurance and verifying eligibility and disability claims? It would seem like an option worth exploring, along with many other proposals for addressing the VA’s core structural problems. Unfortunately, despite the sound and fury over these ongoing scandals, little seems to actually change.