Saturday, February 24, 2018
Editorials

VA medical center keeps losing credibility

Tampa's James A. Haley VA Medical Center continues to damage its credibility. Just a day after the hospital flip-flopped and acknowledged using a covert camera to videotape a brain-damaged veteran, the hospital announced it would remove the camera from his hospital room. While the public relations fiasco prompted Haley to do the right thing, this does not excuse the invasion of privacy or the apparent deceit. The episode merely adds to Haley's record of failing to give straight answers and tarnishing its public image.

The revelation comes after Tampa Bay Times staff writer William R. Levesque reported July 10 that Haley installed a camera disguised as a smoke detector in Joseph Carnegie's hospital room. In an interview July 9, the hospital's deputy director, Roy Hawkins Jr., told the Times the video feed was not being recorded — only monitored by the staff. But Haley officials acknowledged Wednesday that it videotaped the veteran's room. Hours after that report was published, Haley announced it would remove the camera.

The videotaping is more than an isolated problem, because it involves a family that has charged that Haley's staff did not adequately monitor Carnegie. Haley officials also have been inconsistent in explaining how and why the camera was installed in the first place. They offered two conflicting stories on separate occasions about whether the family knew the camera was being installed. They never explained why a camera disguised as a smoke detector was used. And Haley has yet to explain the need for the camera at all. The hospital insisted the camera was to ensure Carnegie's safety and care, yet denied the device was employed out of any staffing concern.

This is doublespeak at best from a hospital that serves more than 116,000 veterans in a four-county area on the west coast of Florida. And it follows a pattern in recent years of Haley retreating into defense mode when faced with embarrassing revelations about its operations or how it has treated needy veterans. Haley has not been candid in the last year about its financial challenges, or about complaints from veterans that they have not been able to access outside doctors.

The hospital's new director, Kathleen Fogarty, who took over last fall, has failed to overhaul the hospital's culture of defiance and nonresponsiveness to public concerns. That is a disservice to veterans, the hospital's rank and file, and to taxpayers who have supported Haley generously. The bay area's congressional delegation should press VA headquarters to move Haley in a direction that is more consistent with its obligation to this community and its level of public support. It should not take a neighborhood watch group to ensure that Haley treats veterans and their families with decency and recognizes that it is accountable to the veterans it serves and to taxpayers who pay the bills.

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Editorial: Improve school security plans with gun controls

Editorial: Improve school security plans with gun controls

Gov. Rick Scott and key members of the Florida Legislature offered ambitious proposals Friday that would plug some holes in the state’s safety net, strengthen school security and spend up to a half-billion dollars in response to last week’s massacre ...
Published: 02/23/18
Editorial: Six proposals for reasonable gun control

Editorial: Six proposals for reasonable gun control

Enough is enough. The mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has renewed conversations about gun control in Washington and Tallahassee. Young people are demanding action, and there are cracks in the National Rifle Association’s solid w...
Published: 02/23/18
Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

The nation’s conversation on guns took an encouraging step this week in three essential places — South Florida, Tallahassee and Washington — as survivors, victims’ families and elected leaders searched painfully and sincerely for common ground after ...
Published: 02/22/18

Editorial: FDLE probe of state fair fiasco falls short

It should go without saying that Florida law frowns upon public officials who take freebies from vendors and whose agency throws business to their family. But that wasn’t enough to move the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to find that the ex-di...
Published: 02/21/18
Updated: 02/23/18
Editorial: They value guns, not kids

Editorial: They value guns, not kids

They value guns over kidsSix days after 17 were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High by a teen-ager firing an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, the Florida House refused to even debate a bill banning the sale of assault weapons. The vote, 71 to 36, wasn...
Published: 02/21/18

Editorial: Nursing home rule should be stronger

It shouldn’t take months or another tragedy for Florida — which is hot and full of seniors — to protect its elderly population from heat stroke in the event of an emergency. That’s why Gov. Rick Scott had the right idea last year in calling for nursi...
Published: 02/20/18
Updated: 02/23/18
Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are traveling to the state capital today and declaring "never again.’’ A prominent Florida Republican fundraiser vows he won’t raise another nickel until his party approves new gun controls. Across F...
Published: 02/19/18

Editorial: No more doubt about Russian meddling in election

The latest indictment by the Justice Department special counsel, Robert Mueller, refutes President Donald Trump’s claims that Russian interference in the 2016 election was a Democratic hoax. The indictment details the lengths Russian conspirators too...
Published: 02/19/18

Another voice: Tips should belong to workers, not their bosses

The Trump administration is under fire for proposing a Labor Department regulation that could result in hotel and restaurant employers dipping into the tips customers leave for their employees, depriving the nation’s 14 million hard-working restauran...
Published: 02/18/18
Updated: 02/20/18
Editorial: Trump’s rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Editorial: Trump’s rising deficits and misplaced priorities

It’s not popular in Washington or virtually anywhere else these days to express concern about the rising federal deficit. Congressional Republicans who used to be deficit hawks first voted to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, then rais...
Published: 02/17/18