There are four suspicious deaths in the spinal cord wing of the Memphis Veteran Affairs Medical Center (VAMC), according to two new complaints to the Office of Special Counsel (OSC).
“The drains in the bathrooms were in adequate along with the ventilation system. Gross misuse of staff and HUGE infection control issue.”
One complainant stated recounting a conversation they had with the Chief of the Spinal Cord Unit, Dr. Sandra Kirkland. “When I asked her about my concerns of feces overflowing and going into other pts [patients] rooms and the concern about pat (patient) and the bowel trainer being enclosed in a small area with adequate ventilation she responded, ‘Don’t you think if there was an issue the engineers would have been up here?’ 30 minutes later I spoke with Alice a nurse on 1 East who informed me that the Engineers HAD been alerted and had come up to investigate because the leakage was affecting the places underneath the area. In other words it was leaking through the ceiling down stairs.”
That was part of a laundry list of issues in both complaints including unsanitary working conditions, understaffed department, and whistleblower reprisals. Both whistleblowers say they developed a form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from the hostile work environment there. The issues have caused the department to be broken from top to bottom culminating in at least four deaths.
Here’s how each of the four died, according to both complaints.
- Patient with initials BB, He came into the hospital healthy but was found dead days after having surgery. “He had surgery too, but didn’t really want it, was told that he really should have it,” according to one complaint. “He was afraid something would happen and if memory serves me, he was dead within 3 days after surgery.”
- Patient with initials JC was neglected by a doctor, Dr. David Wade with a well-known substance abuse problem: “basically just ignored and put off by his physician…..now deceased,” according to one complaint.
“His doctor was Wade who was famous for his drinking problem and his neglect of pts. (patients),” according to the other complaint.
- Patient with initials RLH: “He was at our unit for well over a year, was sent home, went to another hospital in Murfreesboro and was told he was eat up with cancer and died shortly after,” according to one complaint.
- Patient identified as Mr. S: “Came into the hospital for surgery which he repeatedly said he did not want. They did surgery. I asked Barbara (Wade Reese a nurse who also works on the ward) what staff signed as a witness for the consent. She said I don’t know. I don’t think it was a nurse. He died several days after surgery,” a complaint stated.
This unit is no stranger to controversy. In August 2015, video leaked showing quadri/paraplegics on the ward being left alone regularly for nearly an hour at a time.
This news is the latest trouble for the Memphis VAMC which has been cited for long wait times, unsanitary conditions, privacy violations, medical records backlogs, and whistleblower retaliation: all leading to a recent change in leadership.
Sean Higgins, a frequent whistleblower against the hospital, told TheDC that media — both local and national — have broken several new scandals in a year and a half.
Willie Logan, public affairs officer for the Memphis VAMC and Sandra Glover, spokesperson for the Veteran Integrated Services Network (VISN) 9, which includes the Memphis VAMC, did not respond to emails for comment.