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Haley didn't mislead in case of vet who died, Bilirakis says

TAMPA — Rep. Gus Bilirakis said he is satisfied that the James A. Haley VA Medical Center did not mislead him about the care provided to a veteran who died in the hospital's care.

Bilirakis came to that conclusion after meeting with Haley officials late Thursday to learn more about the case of Richard Stecher, who died at Haley on June 30.

Haley apologized to Stecher's longtime companion about the care the Tarpon Springs man received at Haley. The hospital said three doctors "missed opportunities" to treat Stecher.

The hospital said Stecher should have been admitted in April after a CAT scan. Part of the problem was that Stecher was sent to a non-VA facility for the scan because of a shortage of radiologists.

But when Bilirakis first asked about the case earlier this year after a complaint by Stecher's companion, Haley did not provide him with much of that key detail in a response to him.

The St. Petersburg Times, which profiled Stecher's case Aug. 8, first reported Haley's omissions in the days after the case became public.

In an interview Friday, Bilirakis said Haley admitted to him the hospital should have provided a fuller account of Stecher's death. But Bilirakis said it was a simple oversight, not an attempt at deception.

Officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital would not comment about the meeting.

Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, said Haley told him it had made improvements, including the hiring of additional radiologist technicians so patients are no longer sent outside the VA system, and more experienced staff at the emergency room front desk.

Bilirakis encouraged veterans who are dissatisfied with their care at Haley to contact his office.

Haley didn't mislead in case of vet who died, Bilirakis says 08/22/08 [Last modified: Sunday, August 24, 2008 9:56am]
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