Published: Nov 19, 2010 12:33 AM EST
Updated: Nov 18, 2010 8:22 PM EST

LEE COUNTY, Fla. - A Florida lawmaker says Tampa's James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital is making changes following complaints of poor practices and unsanitary conditions.

Congresswoman Kathy Castor says she made a surprise tour of the medical center during a visit last week for a Veterans' Day parade.  A spokesperson for the hospital confirmed Castor's visit.

Private First Class Corey Kent, from Cape Coral, was critically injured by an I.E.D while serving in Afghanistan this summer.  The 22-year-old was recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center until he was transferred to Tampa's V.A. hospital last month. 

Kent's family says the progress he made at Walter Reed almost immediately began to reverse in Florida.  Dan Ashby, Kent's step-father, emailed photos to WINK News showing mold in a bathroom, dirty floors, a hole in a wall, and other conditions that troubled him.

Ashby also said his step-son, who has post traumatic stress syndrome, was once shaken awake in the middle of the night by a physician.  He also complained of a lack of communication between doctors regarding Kent's care.

Ashby shared his concerns with lawmakers in Washington after Kent was transferred back to Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Castor, who represents the Tampa area, said she took his concerns seriously.  After touring the hospital, she e-mailed Ashby with her findings.  Ashby shared the e-mail with WINK News. Castor's office also confirmed the correspondence.

In her email, Castor says she spoke with hospital officials, who acknowledged Kent's care could have been better.  The hospital said it is taking steps to improve patient care and communication among doctors, staff, and family.

The hospital is also in the midst of a multi-million dollar construction project.  Castor said Kent was housed in one of the last wings still awaiting renovations.  Since his transfer to Walter Reed, Castor says the wing has closed as upgrades get underway.

Kent remains in Walter Reed's intensive care unit.  His family says doctors, operating to remove one infection on Tuesday, discovered a second.  Doctors say he will need more surgery to clear the infection, but that he is currently in stable condition.

Below is a copy of Castor's email to Kent's step-father.


Dear Mr. Ashby:

I hope your son PFC Corey Kent is receiving the highest quality attention and medical care he deserves.  I reviewed your correspondence, timeline, and pictures from Corey's time at the Haley VA Medical Center in Tampa, Florida.  As I expressed to you over the phone, I am concerned with the circumstances.

Last Thursday, on Veterans' Day, I performed a surprise tour of the Haley VA Medical Center and particularly the areas of the hospital that you referenced in your correspondence.  I also spoke with the Director and Medical Director about the quality of care Corey received during his
stay.  I reviewed the specific points you raised in relation to Corey's care.  The Haley VA leadership acknowledged that there were circumstances related to his care that should have been handled in a better way, and there is room for improvement.  They are making changes based on Corey's experience at Haley:

* They want to set up a "one voice" system that allows for a spokesperson to deliver all information to the family on the care being delivered. They hope this will eliminate some of the confusion and conflicting information you received on Corey's care.

* They see the need for better pain team coordination between military and VA hospitals.  They believe more comprehensive communication between Haley and Walter Reed would have resulted in better pain management for Corey.

* They are reviewing their procedures concerning the delivery of blood to patients.  Because Corey would have been safe to wait until the
next morning to receive the blood, they indicated that giving it to him late at night - and then monitoring him every 15 minutes while he is
trying to sleep - made it unnecessarily difficult for him.

* They plan to educate their staff on PTSD to ensure they take into account the unique issues facing these patients and adjust their treatment accordingly.  They indicated to me that they understand your concern with having a care provider come into his room in the middle of the night and shake his bed as inappropriate for someone suffering from PTSD.

As to the facilities, Corey was located in one of the last portions of the hospital to be remodeled. In fact, in the last couple of weeks it
was closed to patients for a complete overhaul.  Among the renovations, the bathrooms will be tiled floor to ceiling, the flooring will be
replaced in the rooms, and lifts will be installed to transport patients from the bed to the bathroom.  If Corey were to go to Haley now, he
would be in a ward of the hospital that was brand new and updated.

I will review these items with the Haley Director and Medical Director on a regular to basis to ensure that they are following through on these
vital improvements for patient care and physical renovations.  Your willingness to speak out on behalf of Corey and the patients is a true
service.  I would appreciate any other thoughts or suggestions you may have, so please do not hesitate to contact me with any comments,
questions, or concerns.

Thank you for bringing your concerns to my attention.  I know you will be pleased to know that future servicemen and women who come to Haley will receive improved patient care.



Kathy Castor