Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

VA investigators interview family of veteran whose room was monitored by covert camera

TAMPA — Department of Veterans Affairs investigators Tuesday interviewed the family of a brain-damaged veteran whose room was monitored by James A. Haley VA Medical Center officials using a camera disguised as a smoke detector.

Natalie Carnegie and husband, Michael Coleman, said they were interviewed for more than four hours by investigators with the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General, or OIG.

The office opened an investigation at the request of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., after a July story about the camera appeared in the Tampa Bay Times. Both the OIG and the U.S. House Committee on Veterans' Affairs are investigating Haley. Neither comment on pending inquiries.

The interview comes as the couple say they continue to face harassment by Haley officials. It began, they say, after they discovered the camera, which they say was secretly installed.

The couple said Haley has assigned VA police to follow them when they visit Natalie's father, Joseph Carnegie, 80.

VA officials, who said they told the family before installing the camera to monitor Joseph Carnegie's fragile health, have declined to comment about the investigation or allegations of harassment. But officials have previously told the Times the family poses no safety threat to the hospital.

"The focus of the James A. Haley VA hospital and clinics has always been to deliver professional, compassionate care in a safe environment," VA spokeswoman Mary Kay Hollingsworth said. "The VA Inspector General is looking into this situation, and as such, it is inappropriate for VA to respond further at this time."

Carnegie, an Air Force veteran, was admitted to a hospital a year ago suffering from high blood sugar. He soon developed a severe infection at that VA facility before being transferred to Haley.

Then, Carnegie suffered severe brain damage after Haley medical personnel failed to keep a feeding tube clear, the family says. The VA said it is unsure what caused cardiac arrest that led to the brain damage.

The family threatened malpractice litigation. Soon after, they said, the camera was installed and the family's every move in the room recorded.

Natalie Carnegie filed a written complaint about harassment last month with Joleen Clark, deputy director of the VA Sunshine Healthcare Network, a regional agency office.

"We are not thugs, gangsters or the mob," the complaint said. "We are a family."

Haley officials, the husband and wife said, also evicted them in June from their room at Fisher House, a facility on Haley's campus reserved for the families of veterans who live more than 50 miles away. The Carnegie family is from Atlanta.

The couple said they were kicked out right after they discovered the covert camera and complained to Haley administrators. But Haley officials said the move was not harassment.

"It is not uncommon (that demand) for … Fisher House lodging to be greater than the availability of rooms," Haley spokeswoman Carolyn Clark said.

The VA said families typically stay for three months. The Carnegies had been there more than 10 months.

It is a rarity for families to be forced to leave Fisher House before a veteran is discharged from the hospital, said Cindy Campbell, a spokeswoman for the Haley House Foundation, which builds Fisher House facilities at VAs around the nation.

"Normally, it never, ever happens," said Campbell, who acknowledged she knows nothing of this family's situation.

After leaving Fisher House, Carnegie and her husband stayed at a hotel paid for by the Haley House, a private charity. But the couple were asked to leave last week because the charity could not afford to continue to pay, said Mary Ellen Harlan, a Haley House board member.

"The Carnegies are very nice," Harlan said. "I can say unequivocally that we've had no problems with them at all."

The couple said they are temporarily staying at a local hotel on their own dime.

VA investigators interview family of veteran whose room was monitored by covert camera 09/04/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 4, 2012 11:50pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Fire on neighbor's porch leads to charges against Holiday man

    Crime

    HOLIDAY — A Holiday man was arrested Wednesday after authorities say he torched the front porch of his neighbor, who he insisted was holding his daughter hostage.

    Dan Fry, 63, of Holiday was arrested Wednesday on a charge of first-degree arson. [Photo courtesy of Pasco Sheriff's Office]
  2. Port Richey man solicited sex from 13-year-old, Pasco authorities say

    Crime

    PORT RICHEY — A Port Richey man was arrested Wednesday after Pasco County authorities say he solicited sex from a 13-year-old boy on the gay male dating app Grindr.

    Shawn Daly, 43, of Port Richey was charged with solicitation for sexual conduct with a child over a computer. [Photo courtesy of Pasco Sheriff's Office]
  3. On the Camino de Santiago, Day 16: An evening of wine and song transcends all language barriers for these travelers

    Travel

    Day 16: Castrojeriz to Villarmentero de Campos: 35 km, 10.5 hours. Total for Days 1-16 = 360 km (224 miles)

  4. Unexpected weak quarter at MarineMax slashes boating retailer shares by 20 percent

    Business

    CLEARWATER — Just then you thought it was safe to go back into the water, a boating business leader issued a small craft warning.

    Bill McGill Jr., CEO of Clearwater's MarineMax, the country's biggest recreational boat retailer. [Courtesy of MarineMax]
  5. Dunedin's negotiations with Blue Jays continue

    Local Government

    DUNEDIN — Dunedin officials are still in the process of negotiating a license agreement with the Toronto Blue Jays.

    A rendering by Populous, a global architecture firm specializing in sports facility development, shows the entrance of an upgraded Florida Auto Exchange Stadium shows a Toronto Blue Jays team store. If the $81 million renovation plans between the city and team go through, the store would be open year-round.Credit:  Populous