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Home > Topics > Fatal Incidents
July 18, 2014

VA finds no fault in response to vet who died

The Department of Veteran Affairs secretary ordered a "rigorous" review of the incident where a veteran collapsed in a VA hospital cafeteria

By Colleen Heild
Albuquerque Journal

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Sloan Gibson, the acting secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, found no fault with the VA’s response to a 71-year-old Vietnam Veteran who collapsed while in the cafeteria of the VA Medical Center in Albuquerque and was treated by bystanders instead of the medical center’s Code Blue team.

Yet, in an appearance in Albuquerque Thursday, Gibson said he’s ordered a “rigorous” review of the incident, in which Jim Napoleon Garcia later died of an apparent heart attack. Rather than dispatch a VA special medical team, local VA policy dictated that 911 be called to aid the man. The cafeteria, which is about 500 yards from the main hospital building, lies outside the response area for the VA’s Code Blue Team

Gibson said bystanders, who included members of the 377th Air Force medical unit, gave CPR to Garcia. City of Albuquerque paramedics arrived about 11 minutes after being called to the scene. Dr. Tom Lynch, VA assistant deputy undersecretary for health and clinical operations, who accompanied Gibson on his visit to New Mexico, said those who came to Garcia’s aid before paramedics arrived “did a good job.”

 “I think everything was done to help this veteran,” Lynch said. “I think, though, that if we are going to be a great health care system we need to examine what we did, we need to learn from it and we need to improve what we do so we can deliver better care to veterans in the future.”

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McClatchy-Tribune News Service
©2014 the Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, N.M.)

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