NORTHPORT, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Accusations of patient neglect and suicide consumed much of a congressional hearing on veteran’s affairs at a VA hospital on Long Island on Tuesday.
Northport VA Medical Center Director Phil Moschitta says the hospital did not turn away a patient that later committed suicide in the hospital’s parking lot, WCBS 880’s Mike Xirinachs reported.
“There weren’t suicides here,” Moschitta said. “There weren’t two veterans. One was a staff employee, the other one by a car exam, indicated that he died of other issues. So you’re gonna see a continuous array of falsehoods because people have other issues here.”
His wife, Joan Kaisen, told Newsday earlier this year he had been suffering from back pain so bad he was unable to sit for more than a few minutes. Doctors at Northport told her husband earlier this year there was nothing more they could do to ease his suffering, she said.
As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, veterans expressed their frustration with their treatment at the facility.
“They don’t care if they help you or not,” Joe Caffiero said.
“The medical department is in shambles,” Hutch Dubusque said, “They delayed my operation for over 3 months.”
The hearing was called by Long Island’s congressional delegation following a deluge of complaints.
“I don’t want to see this with any other vet. They’re there giving their lives for us and this is pathetic,” Kaisen said.
Moschitta told the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs that the FBI investigation will clear the hospital of what he called “false charges.” Moschitta instead blamed the accusations on what he called “false agendas.”
“I’m not interested in pointing fingers, I’m interested in getting to the bottom of this and getting solutions,” Rep. Steve Israel, who is a member of the Committee on Veterans’ affairs, said.
The grilling eventually turned to crumbling infrastructure — leaky roofs, flooding, and the shuttering of operating rooms due to rust particles in ducts.
“I’m looking at the ceiling here. Is that bad duct work that has black material?” Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-NY) asked. “I’m not an expert, but we clearly have to clean it.”
There have also been allegations of fraud, that the staff cold called patients to pad bills.
“There is not fraud,” Moschitta said, “We would welcome someone coming in and taking a look.”
Moschitta blamed federal funding — often requested, rarely delivered.
“The ultimate responsibility is not to hold a field hearing, it’s to vote on long term veterans budgets,” Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) said.
At the end of the hearing, committee members said it’s just the beginning of the investigation, a possible audit, and improved communication.
Members said it shouldn’t have to take a congressional hearing to find out about veterans care.
The FBI is reviewing surveillance videos and hospital records to determine if Kaisen was first turned away.
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