WASHINGTON — The inspector general for the Department of Veterans Affairs is finalizing an investigation into how the VA Medical Center in North Las Vegas handled treatment of Sandi Niccum, a 78-year old blind veteran who waited six hours in pain for emergency care in October, Congress was told Wednesday.
A report “should be publishable in three weeks or so,” John Daigh Jr., assistant inspector general for healthcare inspections, told members of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. The report is expected to include recommendations and a response by the medical center on suggested improvements.
The VA hospital was facing allegations that it mishandled Niccum’s treatment after she arrived for a scan and X-ray for stomach pain that left her weak and in tears. The long wait was compounded by problems with incomplete radiology orders and reported uncaring treatment of the veteran who was 100 percent service-disabled.
Niccum, a longtime community volunteer and former officer in the Disabled American Veterans organization, died on Nov. 15 in a Las Vegas hospice. Her Oct. 22 ordeal at the VA hospital was documented in notes and records released with her permission by a friend after her death, triggering investigations locally and in Washington, prodded by the House committee.
Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., asked Daigh for an update on the Niccum investigation during a hearing into VA delays in treating patients that may have played a role in 23 deaths and compromised the health of dozens of other veterans.
“I want to see what the recommendations are and then we’ll stay on top of the hospital to implement those recommendations,” Titus said after the Niccum report was given.
Hospital surveillance video sought by the House panel for the inspector general’s investigation had been deleted, a development that still concerned lawmakers Wednesday.
At one point in the hearing, committee Chairman Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., inquired about the deleted videotape. “How did that occur?” he asked Dr. Thomas Lynch, VA assistant deputy undersecretary for health.
As VA officials said when the deletions were discovered, Lynch told Miller the tapes are automatically recorded over after 30 days.
“We don’t have that information,” the VA official said. “From our standpoint it’s unfortunate. We would like to have seen what happened as well.”
Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-783-1760. Find him on Twitter: @STetreaultDC