No bedside emergency buttons, few nurses on locked VA psych ward
GAINESVILLE, FL. -- Despite complaints to the Patient Advocate, locked rooms on the psychiatric ward at the Malcom A. Randall VA Medical Center in Gainesville do not have bedside emergency call buttons for patients to summon nurses when they need urgent medical attention, according to Kevin Morris, a veteran currently on the ward.
Morris, who says he is receiving treatment for alcohol dependence and post-traumatic stress disorder, said his room is always locked and the only way he can get in contact with a nurse is by pressing the emergency button next to the shower.
“That works right now, but if it’d been when I was being treated for my collapsed lung and I couldn’t move, I’d have been up the creek,” said Morris.
Employees at the Gainesville VA Medical Center—who spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear they’d lose their jobs—confirmed that the locked rooms do not have bedside emergency buttons.
Nurses on the ward have complained about this to upper management, the employees said. It was the subject of an administrative investigation board inquiry, which included Muriel Newman of the American Federation of Government Employees, in early May.
Newman declined to comment about her experience with the administrative investigation board, though confirmed its existence.
Morris also said his ward—which he says has around 20 patients—is short-staffed, running on four nurses when there should be six.
“They keep promoting the frontline employees like nurses to management positions and then they don’t hire new ones,” said Newman.
Morris also said he complained about this to the patient advocate’s office three months ago, but he hasn’t "heard a peep since."
“We made it through the battlefield; we don’t need to die in a bed because of neglect,” said Morris.
Officials with the VA Medical Center’s patient advocate’s office did not return 15 calls for comment—all of which went straight to voicemail. VA spokeswoman Cindy Snook would neither confirm nor deny Morris’s claims, citing the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
“Due to HIPPA/Privacy rules we cannot divulge any patient information to include whether or not there are actually a patient of the North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System (NF/SGVHS) and also any information that they may have shared with any entity at NF/SGVHS to include the patient advocates office. I can add that the patient advocates (sic) office at the NF/SGVHS ensures that all patient complaints receive immediate attention and patients receiving the best care is our number one priority,” wrote Snook in an email.
The employees report there are currently 119 nursing vacancies, as well as 32 vacancies for physicians.
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