911 Tapes Shed Light on VA Response to Vet's Collapse

Friday, 11 Jul 2014 04:53 PM

 

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Emergency dispatch tapes released Friday reveal further details about efforts to revive a Vietnam veteran who collapsed with a heart attack in a Veterans Affairs hospital in Albuquerque.

Two calls were made while 71-year-old Jim Napoleon Garcia lay on the floor as an ambulance was called to take him to an emergency room 500 yards away.

In the first, a female caller described how the man was unresponsive and bleeding from his mouth and nose. She also expressed her frustration that doctors at a cafeteria table weren't doing more to help.

"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," said the caller, whose name was not provided. She added that the man was being hooked up to an emergency defibrillator.

"Paramedics are already on their way out there," the dispatcher told her.

"There's a table of doctors sitting right next to him and none of them are doing s_," the woman continued.

"OK, I'm sorry about that," the dispatcher responded. Neither the caller nor the dispatcher elaborated.

In a second call minutes later, a male caller said nurses were performing CPR but the man didn't appear to be breathing.

A hospital spokesman was not immediately available for comment Friday. Asked by the Albuquerque Journal about the table of doctors, VA spokeswoman Sonja Brown said,

"Regardless of who was sitting at nearby tables, VA staff along with Kirtland AFB personnel immediately responded in providing basic life support to this veteran. The staff were heroic in their attempts to save the life of this veteran."

The hospital previously said the response to the emergency remained under investigation.
Hospital emergency experts have said it's standard for hospitals to require staff to call 911, even when patients are near an emergency room.

The death of Garcia on June 30 prompted new outrage against the VA as it faces allegations that veterans have endured long wait times and died waiting to see a doctor around the country. The revelations have led to a major shake-up of VA operations.

The 911 records indicate an ambulance arrived to aid Garcia 10.5 minutes after the emergency call. Hospital officials said it is VA policy to call 911, although the emergency response team will be called to nonresponsive patients in clinics and five other buildings on the campus, not including the cafeteria.

Brown said its rapid response policy is under review.

The content of the tapes was first reported by The Albuquerque Journal.

On Thursday, New Mexico's congressional delegation sent a letter to the acting VA director saying they have serious concerns about the handling of Garcia's death.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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