Durham VA makes changes after troubling waiting room photos

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Officials held a news conference Friday after this picture and others surfaced (WTVD)

Officials at the Durham VA hospital said Friday changes have been made after troubling photos of the facility's waiting room were posted to Facebook.

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The couple that posted the photos said they witnesses older vets being mistreated and ignored during lengthy waits for service. One photo showed a veteran in pain lying on the floor.

Director Deanne Seekins told reporters video from the waiting room has been reviewed and it has been determined that three things could have been done better.

"Veterans come to us in their most vulnerable moments - when they are sick and at times in excruciating pain," Seekins explained. "They deserve a safe and comfortable place while waiting for care and to be treated respectfully at all times. Our review of the incident has brought to light some additional steps that we will take to improve the comfort of the Emergency Department."

Seekins said they're going to add recliners to the waiting room and improve their "surge plan" when things get busy to include juice and snacks.

READ DIRECTOR DEANNA SEEKINS' FULL STATEMENT HERE

The changes also came with an apology.

"I'm also committed to ensuring that if we have failures in performance that we address them properly and with the vet's well-being at the center of our decisions. I personally apologize for a breakdown in customer service this past weekend," offered Nurse Executive Dr. Greg Eagerton.

The investigation also turned up rude behavior by a nurse. We're told that person has been disciplined, but we haven't been told how.

The veteran who brought the allegations, Steve McMenamin, says he's not satisfied with the changes announced.

"It's something to show the public, to quiet the public down, but I think there are still a lot of changes that need to happen," McMenamin said. "They listened to us because they had to. The way things were going at first, they really, really wanted to shut us up. Now that they can't, I think they're trying to appease the people more or less."

McMenamin said the changes announced Friday don't address root causes of problems, but rather treat the symptoms.

"This is more of a bandaid over the cut and we need to treat the cut," he said.

"The doctors that we got treated by that night were top notch," McMenamin said. "We got everything we needed once we got there, but the wait time, seven hours for us was pretty substantial for about a 5 minute visit with the doctor. What's in question here is not the doctor, it's what happened before the doctor, with the nursing staff and the wait times. I mean, guys laying on the floor because it's their only option. It's not a good option."

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