JACKSON — A Mississippi congressman is asking federal authorities to investigate the G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Jackson because he believes the hospital is understaffed and patient care is suffering.
U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, the top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, said he has sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations. He said in a news release that he’s asking them to investigate reports of patient deaths, improper access to records and staffing shortages at the hospital.
Hospital spokesman James Theres said in a statement that it wouldn’t be appropriate to respond to Thompson’s letter, but the facility “remains committed to providing the best care anywhere” for veterans.
“In 2011, the Jackson VA was named one of the nation’s top performers on key quality measures by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations,” Theres said. “Jackson VAMC leadership, in conjunction with our labor partners, look forward to personally meeting with Rep. Thompson in the near future to discuss the quality care we provide for Mississippi’s veterans.”
Thompson said numerous constituents and veterans’ groups asked for a review of the hospital’s management and patient care.
“The management of G.V. Sonny Montgomery is in such disarray that essential care stations are being left understaffed, veterans are experiencing serious quality problems in patient care, and medical mistakes are becoming more prevalent leading to serious harm to our veterans and even death,” Thompson wrote in the letter seeking the investigation.
“The fact that veterans can survive some of the most dangerous battlefields around the world only to die prematurely due to inferior medical care back at home is simply unacceptable,” Thompson wrote. “These instances speak to systematic and wide-spread problems which lend to the subpar care of our veteran patients.”
On May 24, the hospital’s associate director of patient care services, Dorothy White-Taylor, was arrested and charged with prescription fraud as part of a continuing investigation by VA’s Office of Inspector General, authorities said. She was released on a $10,000 bond, said Michael Guest, district attorney for Madison and Rankin counties. Theres has declined to discuss details of the case.
Adam Buckalew, spokesman for Republican U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper, said veterans’ health care is a priority. Harper and Thompson represent adjoining congressional districts in central Mississippi.
“With any facility of this size and nature, there are always going to be complaints of negligence. But our congressional office has not seen any proven cases of negligence,” Buckalew told the Associated Press.
Jerry Beaird of Eupora, who was state commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars in 2003 and 2004, said in a phone interview Tuesday that he has received medical care from the VA hospital in Jackson the past 20 years and he has no complaints.
“They’ve saved my life down there more than once. I’ve always been treated with the greatest respect,” said Beaird, who served in the Air Force from 1957 to 1977, including time in Vietnam.
“There’s a way you operate that VA hospital down there,” Beaird said. “It’s just like the military. You go in and you play by their rules, you get along just fine. You try to buck those rules, you’ll be standing outside.
Beaird, 76, said he knows of nothing he’d change at the hospital. “I don’t know where Thompson’s getting all this trash,” he said.