If Gregory Bee is telling the truth, things are looking even worse for the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg.
Former nursing aid Reta Mays admitted to injecting patients at the West Virginia facility with insulin that was not prescribed, causing those patients to die from hypoglycemia. In July, Mays pleaded guilty to seven counts of second-degree murder and one count of assault with intent to commit murder. A civil lawsuit alleges May is responsible for up to 12 patient deaths.
Bee, meanwhile, is claiming in a lawsuit against the VA that he alerted news outlets, a congressman and the office of the inspector general to the deaths after he was pressed to make insulin policy changes at the Clarksburg facility. Bee says he was suspended and eventually lost his job for bringing public attention to the horrendous situation, while Mays was transferred to another job at the facility and fired only after details emerged.
Bee alleges the VA was more interested in protecting its image than its patients.
It’s important to note that these are only allegations at this point. Unfortunately, such an accusation tracks with other problems that have dogged the VA for decades. Whether it be unsanitary conditions at a hospital for war wounded or long wait times and procedure delays leading to prolonged illness and patient deaths — not to mention the established facts of the Clarksburg killings — the VA has been slow to move and often only does so under public pressure. So it carries some weight when someone accuses the agency of trying to sweep a problem under the rug and retaliate against those who pointed it out, instead of doing the right thing.
Although it has promised numerous changes, the VA seems slow to implement them and still inclined to cloak itself against scrutiny first. If a jury finds in favor of Bee, it’s another mark against the VA and further tarnishes the sad legacy of an agency meant to provide top-quality health care to those who gave so much to their country.