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Federal Audits Reveal Malpractice Leading to Multiple Patient Suicides at Atlanta VA Medical Center

Federal audits of the Atlanta Veterans Administration Medical Center, released earlier this summer, revealed a pattern of mismanagement of patient care and medical malpractice within the hospital’s mental health division. This poor treatment has been linked to at least four instances of suicide amongst the patient population in recent years. The Atlanta Veterans Administration Medical Center is one of the country’s largest integrated healthcare systems. It employs nearly 30,000 healthcare professionals who serve approximately 87,000 veterans.

Senate hearing called to address Hospital’s failure to provide adequate standard of care.

In response to these findings, Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, called for a U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs hearing to address the hospital’s management of patient care. The Senate hearing was held on August 7.

At the hearing, a top Department of Veterans Affairs official testified that as a result of the federal investigations, three employees have been reprimanded, two have retired, and several others are facing administrative actions. In addition, the VA Undersecretary for Health, Robert Petzel, stated that the hospital has hired 66 new employees charged with developing and implementing broad changes in response to the federal investigations. These improvements will include standardized policies for conducting urine analysis and creating procedures to ensure that patients and visitors are properly escorted throughout the hospital.

Furthermore, Undersecretary Petzel expressed regret for the four patient suicides that were linked to the hospital’s poor standard of care. One of these victims, who had a history of substance abuse and suicidal thoughts, died of a drug overdose after obtaining drugs from a hospital visitor when he was left unattended in a waiting room.

Providing adequate mental health care to veterans is vital, as many suffer from post traumatic stress disorder and other mental health conditions as a result of their time in combat.

Providing veterans with proper access to mental health resources is very important. Many veterans deal with post traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues. It is estimated that of the 2.6 million service members deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, approximately 13 to 20 percent experience symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder. Furthermore, veterans from other periods of combat also suffer from post traumatic stress disorder which demands proper medical attention. For instance, it is estimated that nearly 10 percent of Gulf War veterans suffer from post traumatic stress disorder. In addition, about half of all Vietnam era veterans have experienced stress reaction symptoms that were serious enough to warrant medical attention at some point.

If you or a loved one are a veteran who has been denied proper medical care, you should contact an attorney immediately. An attorney can review your care to determine whether you have been a victim of medical malpractice or medical negligence. If so, your attorney can help you receive the compensation you deserve for the injuries that you may have suffered as a result.