Report: VA staffers left veteran's body in shower room for 9 hours

- A report from the Department of Veterans Affairs Administrative Investigation Board shows staff members at the Bay Pines VA hospital left the body of a deceased veteran in a shower room for over nine hours, and then falsely documented the post mortem care for the body.

A 24-page report detailing the events is largely redacted to conceal the identities of the deceased veteran and staff members involved, but concludes hospice staff “failed to provide appropriate post mortem care.“

The report says hospice staff put the veteran’s body in the hallway of the hospice unit, leaving it there for an unspecified amount of time. Staff then put the veteran’s body in the shower room and did not “check on the status of the decedent… for over nine hours.”

The report also says someone working in the hospice unit “falsely documented post mortem care for the decedent.” It was unclear if the false documentation was determined to be intentional.

The report says hospice staff acknowledged that there was an increased risk of decomposition of the veteran’s body while it was left in the shower room.

The report also details procedures hospice staff is supposed to follow to avoid something like this from happening.

In addition to findings related to this incident, the review board added that documentation such as patient charts and bed assignment charts were “difficult to follow” and allowed for “inconsistencies that could compromise the evaluation of staffing needs.”

Bay Pines VA released a statement to FOX 13 News about the report:

"As reflected in the outcomes of our thorough internal reviews, it was found that some staff did not follow post mortem care procedures. We view this finding unacceptable, and have taken appropriate action to mitigate reoccurrence in the future. Some of these actions include recommitment by all hospice staff to VA's core values, education and training, and review of policy and procedures. Furthermore, hospice nursing professionals were required to provide a signature commitment of understanding and adherence to policy and practice related to post mortem care. Nursing safety rounds were also initiated as a way to ensure ongoing education and oversight within the unit. Appropriate personnel action was also taken, however, I am not able to provide details as these actions are considered confidential between the agency and employees involved as a matter of professional privacy and respect. We feel that we have taken strong, appropriate and expeditious steps to strengthen and improve our existing systems and processes within the unit.

"Again, this event was undesirable and unacceptable. While there is no specific VA policy or directive that provides guidance on the specific timeframe in which a decedent should be transported, it is our expectation that each Veteran is transported to their final resting place in the timely, respectful and honorable manner. America's heroes deserve nothing less."

U.S. Representative Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) released a statement on after reading the report.

"I am deeply disturbed by the incident that occurred at the Bay Pines VA hospital, and even more distressed to learn that staff attempted to cover it up. The report details a total failure on the part of the Department of Veterans' Affairs and an urgent need for greater accountability. Unsurprisingly, not a single VA employee has been fired following this incident, despite a clear lack of concern and respect for the Veteran. The men and women who sacrificed on behalf of our nation deserve better." 

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