TAMPA, Fla. - A Call for Action investigation into what one soldier's stepfather calls, "deplorable conditions" at the James A. Haley Veterans' hospital in Tampa.
WINK News uncovered a disturbing report showing this isn't the first time a family has raised concerns about the type of care their loved one received at the VA hospital. We also found the VA is well aware of the concerns the Kent family raised about the condition of the hospital building.
Private First Class Corey Kent's family sent us pictures of what they saw inside the hospital: hair and mold in bathrooms, holes in the walls, and broken fixtures. We found the problems they documented are well known to the staff, but hospital administrators left out an incredibly vital piece of information about what they're doing to correct it.
PFC Corey Kent's family asked for a transfer from Walter Reed in Washington, D.C., to James A. Haley in Tampa.
"Things went downhill from the first day," Kent's stepfather Dan Ashby told WINK.
Kent's health took a turn for the worse and Kent had to undergo gall bladder surgery because of a blood infection. His family blames the condition of the hospital and the care he received for his setback.
"It was a direct result of why he got a blood infection," Ashby told WINK
Kent's step dad showed WINK News the pictures he took of the conditions in the hospital. They show mold and hair in the corners of rooms, holes in the walls, and broken fixtures.
"It's time something is said and done. It needs to be looked into. Someone needs to go and investigate that hospital," he said.
So we decided to do some digging. We uncovered almost a dozen published reports by VA investigators about the facility.
We found inspections done in 2002 and 2008 which cited the hospital's cleanliness as a problem. We also found seven different investigations into quality of patient care at the hospital; one following the death of a marine who lost his legs from a roadside bomb and whose condition suddenly and unexpectedly deteriorated once he arrived at James A. Haley.
"I think we provide the very best to not only our veterans but our active duty service members," said Carolyn Clark, a spokeswoman for the VA.
She wouldn't talk to us on camera about those reports, telling us off camera that the investigations were "old" and not relevant. But as far as the condition of the hospital, we were shocked to learn they're making state-of-the-art renovations to the building-- built in 1972. And from the outside, there's no indication to family or to patients that there is a multimillion dollar renovation going on.
We finally persuaded Clark to let us show you how your tax dollars are paying to upgrade the facility.
"We have a painting project-- we also have on five west, we have just rehabbed that unit and we should have that finished in 60-90 days and what that it is-- we have rehabbed that unit with single rooms, flat screen tv's, overhead lift system-- where we are able to lift them to a wheelchair or to the commode or restroom. State-of-the-art," Clark explained.
The downturn in the economy allowed the original renovation project to come in under budget, so now they have money to build a tower with 56 new rooms.
"You'll see that the hospital is somewhat dated but we're working on updating it so it looks modern. And in the next five years it will look totally different and modern. We're one of the busiest VA hospitals in the country and also for active duty service members," Clark told WINK.
The new rooms will be available in the next few weeks, but amazingly, that information was never passed along to Corey Kent's family.
Even knowing about the renovation now, Kent's family said they're glad they moved Corey back to Walter Reed and plan to keep fighting to make sure all VA hospitals offer the best care possible.
"It's not just about Corey. It's about all men and women. Anybody who served in the armed forces deserves better," Ashby explained.
We have links to all the inspections done at the James A. Haley hospital in Tampa. Just click on the links below to see the full reports.
2002 INSPECTION/REVIEW OF FACILITY
2005 INVESTIGATION AFTER MARINE DEATH
2006 FOLLOW UP INVESTIGATION AFTER MARINE'S DEATH
2006 INSPECTION CRANIAL IMPLANT SURGERIES
2006 INVESTIGATION IN TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY PATIENT TREATMENT
2006 REVIEW OF THE FACILITY
2007 PATIENT COMPLAINT
2008 PATIENT COMPLAINT
2008 REVIEW OF THE FACILITY
2008 INVESTIGATION INTO THE VISION CARE