Nurse’s aide at top VA hospital played video games instead of checking patient. That patient died.

Nurse’s aide at top VA hospital played video games instead of checking patient. That patient died.
A nurse's aide at a top VA hospital played video games instead of checking on a patient hourly one night last year — and that patient died. The patient's family has consulted a lawyer and is considering legal action against the VA. (Image source: YouTube screenshot)

A nurse’s aide at a top VA hospital played video games instead of checking on a patient hourly one night last year — and that patient died, the Boston Globe reported.

What happened?

  • Bill Nutter, 68, had just lost his second leg to diabetes and suffered from arrhythmia, which could stop his heart without warning, the paper said.
  • The Vietnam veteran’s family found a place for him at Bedford (Massachusetts) VA Medical Center, the Globe said, adding that the Veterans Administration ranked it as one of its best hospitals — a five-star rating.
  • After Nutter was found dead the morning of July 3, 2016, the paper said a doctor told his widow that a night-shift staffer failed to check on him hourly according to doctors’ instructions.
  • The aide, Patricia Waible, later admitted she was playing video games and didn’t check on Nutter at all — but the confession happened only after an investigator told her video cameras showed she never left her computer the entire shift, the Globe reported, citing an individual with firsthand knowledge.
  • The nurse who discovered Nutter dead used a slit-throat gesture while telling her boss about it, the paper added, citing the hospital’s internal report. The nurse was on a probationary period and was later fired, the Globe reported.

What happened next?

  • The Globe said after it contacted Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin’s office about the story Sept. 22, the VA suspended Waible with pay from her cafeteria job she’d been transferred to after Nutter’s death and plans to seek her permanent removal.
  • The VA inspector general has launched a criminal investigation in conjunction with the U.S. attorney’s office and the FBI to identify systemic failures that may have led to Nutter’s death, the paper added.
  • Waible didn’t return multiple text messages and phone calls from the Globe, the paper said.

What are others saying about the hospital?

  • Whistle-blowers and families of veterans have claimed that relatively healthy patients deteriorate within months after being admitted to the Bedford VA, the paper said.
  • Others said veterans in long-term care sometimes go without food for many hours or are left in soiled clothes or bed linens, the Globe added.
  • Buildings are laced with asbestos, the paper noted, citing a Bedford electrician.

What is the Nutter family saying?

  • “I hold the VA responsible for all of this. They’re responsible for their employees,” Nutter’s daughter, Bridgette Darton, told the Globe. “How many other people did this lady cause issues with?”
  • Nutter’s widow, Carol Nutter, said she was never told she could file a tort claim, although the report indicates she was given that information, the paper added.
  • Nutter’s family has consulted a lawyer and is considering legal action against the VA, the Globe said.
  • “My dad might not have lived another five months, who knows? But if we could have had another month with him — this lady took that away,” Darton told the paper.

You can read the entire Globe article here.

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