Submitted to VT by the Washington Post
The Washington Post’s Lisa Rein reports: Four months after Melanie Proctor’s father was buried with military honors for his combat service in Vietnam, she came home to her farm to find an unfamiliar tan SUV in the driveway. Two federal agents stepped out into the hot sun in August 2018. Proctor, a tax preparer, wondered whether one of her clients was in trouble.“ We’re here about your father,” the FBI agent said. “We don’t believe he died of natural causes.” […] Someone had given her father, who was not a diabetic, a deadly injection of insulin, the investigators told Proctor — and he was not the only one. Multiple veterans had died under similar circumstances on the same ward, and the agents had come to Proctor’s farm in a hamlet 42 miles east of Clarksburg to ask the unthinkable: They wanted to dig up Pap’s body. [..]
The 14-month inquiry is the latest criminal investigation to engulf the Department of Veterans Affairs, intensifying questions about whether the country’s largest health-care system is doing enough to protect the veterans in its care.
FULL PIECE: https://wapo.st/2LQoye0
- The cascade of inquiries threatens to undermine trust in the long-troubled agency and undercut President Trump’s promises to reform the far-flung system, the foundation of his pitch to veterans as he runs for reelection. In Clarksburg, a small Appalachian community four hours west of Washington, hospital officials said they alerted VA leaders as soon as they learned that their medical staff suspected foul play.
- Investigators have identified similarities in nearly a dozen deaths: Elderly patients in private rooms were injected in their abdomen and limbs with insulin the hospital had not ordered — some with multiple shots, according to people familiar with the case. The insulin, which was quickly absorbed, was given late at night when the hospital staff had emptied out. Within hours, the veterans’ blood-sugar levels plummeted.
- The case has also brought new scrutiny to VA’s internal controls. The medical surgical ward in Clarksburg, known as 3A, did not have surveillance cameras, according to people familiar with the case. The woman is believed to have had improper access to the medical supply room. The medicine carts on the floor also were routinely left unlocked. Wesley Walls, a hospital spokesman, said the facility has “many protocols in place to safeguard medication.” But lawmakers are still demanding answers.
- “All of us are up in arms,” said Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), describing the reaction of his colleagues on the Senate committee that oversees veterans’ care. He said he is incredulous that hospital leaders in Clarksburg took so long to put the pieces together. “You mean to tell me that for nine months you didn’t know what was going on in your hospital?” Manchin said. “Either you didn’t care, or there was a lack of competency.” “You can’t be this removed” from hospital operations, Manchin said. “It’s almost like you don’t give a darn.” The senator said he is preparing to call for a “full-blown” Senate investigation into how VA handled the case.
- Investigators have not determined the source of the insulin they believe was used on patients. In some states, including West Virginia, insulin can be purchased without a prescription. At the hospital, the drug, though not a controlled substance, is secured in the medicine room by a coded keypad, according to people familiar with the protocol. However, people familiar with the case said the person of interest obtained access to the room and that medicine carts were often left unlocked. Determining who may have accessed the insulin has presented a challenge. The hospital uses surveillance cameras in general areas such as waiting rooms, hallways and parking lots, a spokesman said. VA does not require their use in hospital wards and leaves the decision up to individual facilities.