Local Veteran's Hospital Under Fire

Tuesday, March 13th 2007, 8:42 pm
By: News On 6

On Monday the U.S. Army's Surgeon General submitted his resignation. Lieutenant General Kevin Kiley is the third top official to lose his job in the scandal over poor treatment of wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Army officials say Kiley was asked to step down. In Oklahoma, similar allegations have arisen against a VA hospital in Oklahoma. The News On 6 talked to several veterans about the quality of care they're provided at the VA hospital in Muskogee.

Recently a woman contacted the News On 6 on behalf of her husband; she says she doesn't usually stir up trouble, but News On 6 anchor Jennifer Loren reports in this case, the woman wants other people to know what’s going on in Oklahoma.

Margaret Wilson fears her husband is dying. 49-year old George Wilson is a Vietnam-era veteran and has had respiratory problems since then. Recently, when those problems turned into pneumonia, Wilson went to the VA Hospital in Muskogee for care. It there that Wilson's wife says his health quickly deteriorated.

"The care is just not there,” said Wilson

Wilson says her husband was ignored when he needed to use the restroom and when he tried to go by himself, he fell. Wilson says her husband had bruises on his body and that doctors at the VA never did an X-ray. Instead she says they called her and said he was ready to be discharged.

"They were dismissing him because there was a virus or something going around and they thought he'd be better off at home," said Wilson.

When she picked him up, she says she was shocked.

"Well he couldn't walk anymore. He was on a catheter. He had lost 40 pounds,” she said. “This was all within two and a half weeks time. That's how much he went down that two and a half weeks time. And from there he just continued to go down.”

George Wilson is now at St. John in Tulsa. They did an X-ray and discovered a blown disc in his back and several more in poor condition, plus he still has pneumonia. His wife blames part of that on the VA and says she'll never go back.

VA Medical Center Associate Director, A. Rudy Klopfer, says they're providing the best care possible with the budget they've been given.

"Are there challenges with that? Sure. But we look at ways where we can use those resources the best, in the best fashion to meet all their needs,” said Klopfer. “Would you like more money from the government? Yes, of course. We feel there's always more services that we could provide."

He can't talk about Wilson's specific case, but he says they provide better health care for veterans than many private facilities. He says the bad reputation his hospital may receive is misguided because they will correct any problems that arise.

"So I would encourage those veterans to come and speak to us and come and see the great things that we are doing in the VA. We are doing some wonderful things," said Klopfer.

Meanwhile another administrator says they would never discharge a patient unless they were healthy enough to go home.

"No we wouldn't do that. We discharge patients when they're ready to be discharged,” said Associate Director of Patient Care Margie Carlton. “When they're medical and emotional and when their condition allows them to be discharged at that time. Then we'll discharge them."

Wilson's wife says she also witnessed vomit on the bathroom floor at the VA that wasn't cleaned up for several days. Administrators say if that's true it’s unacceptable. They say they have added more staff and 30 more beds to take care of the growing number of veterans.