TAMPA, Fla--A promising follow up to a story WINK News started investigating after the family of a Cape Coral soldier showed us startling pictures of conditions inside the James A. Haley Hospital in Tampa.
The family of injured soldier Private First Class Corey Kent claimed he suffered a blood infection while getting poor treatment at the hospital. Hospital leaders promised change.
Call for Action returns to the hospital with Senator Bill Nelson's staff and Kent's step-dad to see the progress.
Four months after our initial investigation, the V.A. says it has cleaned up. They allowed Ashby and members of Sen. Nelson's staff to see the improvements.
Ashby says he is pleased to see the efforts to clean up the facility, "All in all they're going in the right direction."
Ashby took pictures of dirty tile in the public bathroom. That same tile is clean now.
The room where Corey stayed is now under renovation.
Ashby believes without those pictures nothing would have changed.
"Absolutely not. It would have just been another parent upset about their son or daughter," Ashby told WINK NEWS, "But we had the proof. You guys got it to Senator Nelson and got the ball rolling. So I appreciate that and I know the vets thank you for that. Now we just gotta keep it going and keep the pressure on them."
Ashby says he is still concerned with the medical care vets receive at the hospital.
He is also skeptical of the way the tour was handled. He and our cameras were only allowed to go in rooms approved by the hospital. Employees followed our every step.
Still, Ashby is optimistic about the progress.
"They know they are being watched now," said Ashby.
We received statements from both the hospital and Senator Nelson's office.
Statement from James A. Haley:
TAMPA - The James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital in Tampa hosted Senator Bill Nelson's staff, accompanied by Dan Ashby, step-father of a former patient, to provide them an update on progress made on a number of projects to improve patient care areas.
During the visit, the senator's staff toured several locations within the hospital, including a unit where restroom renovations are underway. The two-phase project consists of replacing tile and flooring in more than 300 restrooms throughout the hospital over a three year period. Phase one will be completed next week. Restrooms attached to additional patient rooms or high traffic public areas will be renovated next; those in low traffic and administrative areas will be renovated over the course of the project.
"At VA, our primary mission is to service and advocate for Veterans, first and foremost. We welcomed the opportunity to provide an update to Senator Nelson's staff on the progress being made on our action plans to make these renovations for the benefit of all our patients," said Nancy Reissener, acting medical center director. "With more than 90 construction projects planned to enhance infrastructure, we are confident we will continue to provide world class care to our nation's heroes."
Statement from Senator Nelson's office:
In the wake of a complaint about unsanitary conditions, representatives of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson today accompanied the stepfather of a wounded U.S. soldier on a tour of the James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital in Tampa. The soldier, Army Pfc. Corey Kent, was wounded in Afghanistan and was a patient at the hospital last fall. His stepfather took pictures there showing some of the unsanitary conditions. Thursday's inspection was arranged by Nelson, because Kent's stepfather asked to see what repairs the hospital was making.
Following is a statement from Nelson, following the inspection.
"Corey Kent's family found some very unsanitary conditions when their son was at the VA hospital last fall. The complaint prompted a clean-up and some badly needed renovations, which are still ongoing. We're going to stay on top of this until the job's done."