Photos that appear to show two elderly veterans writhing in pain while waiting for treatment at a VA hospital in Durham, North Carolina, are going viral.
Stephen McMenamin, a retired U.S. Marine, was at the Durham VA Medical Center for treatment when he and his wife, Hanna, witnessed the men complaining and experiencing difficulties in the waiting room.
“I saw something wrong happening in my opinion, and I felt like nobody would possibly believe me if I didn’t take a picture,” said Hanna McMenamin.
One of the vets was slumped over in a wheelchair. Another resorted to lying on the floor while using a bag of medication for a pillow.
“The nurse started yelling at him, telling him he can’t do that. He’s like, ‘I can’t get up and I won’t get up. I will be here until you can see me. Can I please have a blanket?’” Stephen McMenamin told WSB-TV.
McMenamin said both men were ignored for hours. He claimed his wife found the scene “upsetting,” so she posted the photos to her Facebook page.
“The man bent over grabbing the chair, was yelling in pain and was borderline convulsing and almost falling out of his chair he was in so much pain,” she wrote. “No one paid him any attention until I approached a nurse to please check on him.”
Jessie Lee was the veteran in the wheelchair. Lee said part of his leg was amputated last year and he now suffers from phantom pain.
“It really hurt. Really, really bad. Like one of the worst hurts I ever had in my life,” Lee told WNCN-TV.
Lee claims he visits the facility about twice a week and that he was forced to wait longer than usual that day.
“Somebody in real bad pain should be seen,” Lee said. “It felt like a railroad spike was going through my foot. It’s like one of the worst pains you’ve ever felt in your life.”
The Facebook post has been shared more than 118,000 times. McMenamin said other veterans have contacted the couple to complain of similar treatment at VA facilities.
McMenamin updated her Facebook post to say the VA is “very unhappy that we have posted this photo and it has been seen around the country.”
DeAnne Seekins, medical center director at the VA facility, released the following statement:
We take seriously any allegation of poor service. I was made aware of a regrettable incident that occurred in our Emergency Department over the weekend and am thankful someone cared enough to share the incident with us. Our mission is to provide the highest level of health care to Veterans, so upon learning of the incident, I took swift action. The employee was immediately removed from patient care pending the results of an internal review.
It is an honor to serve America’s heroes and actions that do not align with our core values will not be tolerated. We pride ourselves on providing the highest quality care to the Veterans we serve and being responsive to our patient’s needs. Veterans deserve nothing less.
Seekins said later in an interview with the TV station that dozens of veterans sought care in the emergency room that night and that all were evaluated and treated based on the nature of their emergency.
“I feel very, very good because those veterans received high-quality care,” Seekins told WNCN.
She said one veteran was not aware his picture was being taken and asked for the image to be removed. He even apologized for laying on the floor.
“One veteran is extremely upset because he said, ‘I’m a very private person, you know, I was here, I was sick, I didn’t need someone taking my photograph,’” Seekins said.
As WND reported, four employees at an Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs facility resigned in 2016 after a resident with a maggot-infested wound died of an infection while under their care.
President Trump promised during his campaign to overhaul the way the government provides health care for veterans. He vows to use his business acumen to change the system and put an end to mismanagement – even if he has to “pick up the phone and fix it myself.”