Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Haley VA admits recording feed from 'covert' camera in hospital room

James Carnegie, here in his bed at the James A. Haley VA Medical Center, is severely brain damaged. Official stories have changed about the covert camera in his room.

Times staff

James Carnegie, here in his bed at the James A. Haley VA Medical Center, is severely brain damaged. Official stories have changed about the covert camera in his room.

TAMPA — Officials at the James A. Haley VA Medical Center admitted Wednesday to videotaping a brain-damaged veteran using a covert smoke-detector camera after initially denying they did so.

Leaders at the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital offered no explanation why they had previously denied taping the veteran, Joseph Carnegie, in interviews with the Tampa Bay Times this month.

The revelation comes after a July 10 Times story detailing Haley's installation of a "C401W Smoke Detector Covert Camera" made by Vonnic Inc. in Carnegie's hospital room after his family threatened malpractice litigation.

Haley officials have admitted placing the camera without the consent of Carnegie's family, saying it was used for "patient safety." But they emphatically denied recording the video feed.

In a statement late Wednesday by Haley spokeswoman Carolyn Clark in response to questions by the Times, Haley said, "We can and do record video without audio to enhance our ability to provide patient care as appropriate."

In a July 9 interview with Haley's chief of staff, Edward Cutolo, deputy director Roy Hawkins Jr. and Clark, the Times asked if the video feed was being recorded.

"No," said Hawkins, noting the feed was only being monitored by staff. "They're there to visually watch this, not to record."

The Times recorded the interview with the VA's consent.

Carnegie's daughter, Natalie, said her family objects to the taping. She said nurses have admitted to them that taping was taking place even as Haley's administration denied it.

The videotaping, like the installation of the camera without the family's knowledge, makes the invasion of privacy all the more egregious, Natalie Carnegie said.

"My father is ill. He can't speak for himself. This is one of the worst moments in his life. He's in this hospital because he earned the right to be here through his service to the nation. No veteran deserves this kind of disrespect," she said.

Haley said the video feed from the smoke alarm camera does not have audio. But Natalie Carnegie said nurses have told the family that the audio was being monitored and recorded as well. "The room is bugged," she said.

Why Haley officials would go to so much trouble is unclear. Hawkins said the camera isn't being used in any investigation of hospital staff. And he said Carnegie's family is not being accused of any wrongdoing that might need to be documented.

Hawkins has said the camera is simply used to monitor patient safety in much the same way as a heart monitor or other device.

The Carnegie family has accused nurses and other hospital staff of not adequately monitoring the veteran or wearing protective clothing to prevent infection.

Carnegie, who lives in the Atlanta area, had taken ill while vacationing in South Florida. He was transferred to Haley in August to be closer to home and receive more aggressive care at Haley, which is considered one of the VA's leading hospitals.

Natalie Carnegie said staff negligence caused her father's brain damage in August when nurses failed to notice the buildup of mucus and other material in a feeding tube. Carnegie said her father had been left lying flat on his back, which allowed the fluid buildup, causing cardiac arrest.

Cutolo, Haley's chief of staff, said previously that the reason for the cardiac arrest may never be known.

"It did occur at our facility, on our watch, and we take responsibility … and apologized to the family," he said.

But hospital leaders said the camera is not related to any staffing issue at Haley.

Haley officials insist the Carnegie family was told by staff that the camera was being installed in June. But Hawkins, the deputy director, initially told the Times this month the camera was placed in the room without notice to the Carnegies.

The family said they noticed the odd-looking smoke detector on June 15, shortly after it was placed on the ceiling, and saw a camera lens after a closer look.

Hawkins said using room cameras over the objection of a veteran or family is consistent with VA national policy.

A VA spokesman in Washington, D.C., failed to respond to repeated questions asking if that was true.

"VA places the highest priority on delivering high-quality care while respecting the privacy of veterans," VA spokesman Phil Budahn said. "In some cases, it may be medically necessary to closely monitor patients to ensure they are receiving the care they need."

William R. Levesque can be reached at levesque@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3432.

Haley VA admits recording feed from 'covert' camera in hospital room 07/25/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 10:34pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Review: Mumford and Sons shower Amalie Arena with love in euphoric Tampa debut

    Blogs

    There are releases, and then there are releases. And minutes into their concert Wednesday at Amalie Arena, Mumford and Sons gave Tampa the latter.

    Mumford and Sons performed at Tampa's Amalie Arena on Sept. 20, 2017.
  2. FEMA to open disaster recovery center in Riverview

    Hurricanes

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it will open a disaster recovery center Thursday in Riverview for Hillsborough County residents impacted by Hurricane Irma.

  3. Life sentence for man convicted in killing of brother of Bucs' Kwon Alexander

    Bucs

    An Alabama man who shot and killed the 17-year-old brother of Bucs linebacker Kwon Alexander in 2015 was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday, the Anniston (Ala.) Star reported.

  4. Remember him? Numbers prove Ben Zobrist is one of greatest Rays of all time

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The first foray back to the Trop by the best manager the Rays have had obscured the second return visit by arguably the second-best player in franchise history.

    Figures.

    Chicago Cubs second baseman Ben Zobrist (18) grounds into a double play to end the top of the third inning of the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017.
  5. GOP's new repeal bill would likely leave millions more uninsured, analyses suggest

    Health

    WASHINGTON — The latest Republican bid to roll back the Affordable Care Act would likely leave millions of currently insured Americans without health coverage in the coming decades, and strip benefits and protections from millions more, a growing number of independent studies suggest.

    Vice President Mike Pence listens as President Donald Trump talks to reporters about the Graham-Cassidy health care bill during a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi at the Palace Hotel during the United Nations General Assembly, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, in New York. [Evan Vucci | Associated Press]