Four employees at an Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs facility have resigned after a resident with a maggot-infested wound died while under their care.
Vietnam veteran Owen Reese Peterson, 73, initially came to the Talihina Veterans Center with an infection, but ended up with sepsis and died on Oct. 3.
Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening complication of an infection that can damage the internal organs, causing them to fail.
Peterson had apparently been at the facility for just a few weeks, and the time frame between the gruesome discovery of the maggots and his death is unclear.
“He did not succumb as a result of the parasites,” Executive Director Myles Deering told the Tulsa World. “He succumbed as a result of the sepsis.”
A physician’s assistant and three nurses, including the director of nursing, resigned in the wake of the investigation, said Shane Faulkner, a spokesman for the ODVA.
“All four chose to resign before the termination process began,” Faulkner said.
Deering, who also serves as state secretary of Veterans Affairs, said staff members filed an incident report, which the state health department claims to have received on Oct. 13.
“It was determined that the facility fully investigated the incident and took any appropriate actions,” said Jamie Dukes, an Oklahoma State Department of Health spokeswoman.
The medical center also submitted a report to the district attorney to see if charges are warranted, according to Deering.
Peterson’s son, Raymie Parker, of Atlanta, described his frustration with the staff as he advocated to improve the care his father received. He told the Tulsa World that employees would “stonewall” his attempts to seek help and expressed his frustration with the bureaucracy he found himself up against.
“During the 21 days I was there … I pleaded with the medical staff, the senior medical staff, to increase his meds so his bandages could be changed,” Parker told the newspaper. “I was met with a stonewall for much of that time.”
The 100-year-old facility can house up to 175 patients.
“The Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs is required to maintain certain staffing levels and currently is unable to meet them,” said Sen. Frank Simpson, R-Springer, chairman of the Oklahoma Senate Committee on Military and Veterans Affairs. “At Talihina, they had to reduce the population of veterans there due to the inability to staff the facility.”
During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump promised to overhaul the way the government provides health care for veterans. The president-elect has vowed to use his business acumen to change the system and put an end to mismanagement once he’s sworn into office – even if he has to “pick up the phone and fix it myself.”