Hospice workers at a Veteran's hospital run by the VA failed to properly attend to the body of a deceased veteran, and hastened the decomposition of the body.
The VA staff then allegedly tried to cover up their mistake. The Tampa Bay Times filed a Freedom of Information request for a 24-page report on the incident, which took place in February.
According to the report, after the veteran died, hospice staff asked a "transporter" to move the body to the morgue. The transporter told them to follow procedures by contacting dispatchers first. Dispatchers were never contacted.
The body was placed in a hallway, and was then moved to a shower, where it stayed for more than 9 hours.
In the aftermath of the incident, staff "falsely documented" what happened. They blamed a breakdown in communication that the report says never happened.
They also blamed a shortage of clerical staff, but later redacted that claim. There were apparent organizational failures, including failing to update nursing service charts to determine who was responsible, and failing to check a 24-hour report that would have indicated that something was amiss.
The actions of the VA staff, the report claims, "demonstrated a lack of concern, attention and respect" for the deceased.
A human body begins decomposing within minutes after death, according to the Washington post. Through a process called autolysis, tissues break down as cells lose oxygen.
The report states that the actions of the staff exposed the veteran's body to "increased risk of decomposition."
The Hospital's spokesman, Jason Dengel, says "We feel that we have taken strong, appropriate and expeditious steps to strengthen and improve our existing systems and processes within the unit... 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."
Dengel declined to say whether any employees had been fired for their role.
Republican Rep. Gus Bilirakis, said he was "deeply disturbed" by the incident, "and even more distressed to learn that staff attempted to cover it up. 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."