Veteran Collapses At VA Hospital, Dies Waiting For Squad To Take Him 500 Yards - Director Says Response Was Proper

A Vietnam veteran collapsed at a VA hospital in New Mexico and died while waiting for an ambulance to take him 500 yards to the emergency room. Jim Garcia, 71, had a heart attack at the Raymond G. Murphy VA Medical Center cafeteria. While he lay dying on the floor, multiple 911 calls were made for a squad. Acting Veterans Affairs Secretary Sloan Gibson has ordered a "rigorous" investigation into the veteran's death.

After the veteran collapsed, some bystanders gave Garcia CPR until a team of paramedics arrived 11 minutes later. Some of those who immediately helped at the scene were members of an Air Force medical group. Jim Garica's death reignited the backlash against the VA from veterans around the United States who waited an extensive amount of time to see a government doctor – some died before their appointment date was scheduled.

One New Mexico VA staffer who called 911 reportedly said this during the emergency call:

"We called our rapid response here at the hospital but unfortunately they won't respond to him because he's out of the main medical building."
After the 911 dispatcher told the woman that paramedics were on the way, the called reportedly added, "There's a table of doctors sitting next to him and none of them are doing s**t."

When asked what he thought about the Raymond G. Murphy VA Medical Center death by the Albuquerque Journal, Sloan Gibson said, "The fundamental question I ask myself is, 'Did we do everything we reasonably could do in difficult circumstances to save this veteran's life?'" Those angered and speaking out about the veteran dying while at the medical center largely see the situation far differently. If you are going to have a heart attack, doing so inside a hospital complex should increase and not decrease the chances for quick care and ultimately survival, some have pointed out.

The VA acting director did finally tell the New Mexico newspaper that upon review of the incident, it may have seem "counter-intuitive" to call an ambulance to help someone already at a hospital facility, but he then claimed that there are "very good reasons" why such things happen.

Excerpt from the Albuquerque Journal detailing the Raymond G. Murphy VA Medical Center policy about on-site emergencies:

"A 4-year-old local VA policy establishes certain areas of the 100-acre VA campus in Southeast Albuquerque in which a VA "Code Blue Team" is to respond to emergencies. The cafeteria lies about 500 yards from the medical center, where there is an emergency room, but the cafeteria isn't included in the response area. Locations outside the designated code blue areas are to be served by Albuquerque paramedics."
The reasoning or attributes of the response policy remain unclear. VA Assistant Deputy Undersecretary for Health and Clinical Operations Dr. Tom Lynch, said that the VA plans to learn from the response issues surrounding the veteran's collapse and decipher what can be done differently to "deliver better care to veterans in the future." Such hindsight may likely provide little solace to Jim Garcia's loved ones.

What do you think about the veteran collapsing at the New Mexico VA hospital and dying while waiting for an ambulance?

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