Durham VA responds to viral photos from emergency room

(Stephen McMenamin)

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – The Durham VA Medical Center held a pres conference Friday where officials responded to photos taken at the facility that went viral.

DeAnne Seekins
DeAnne Seekins

Stephen McMenamin, a veteran, and his wife Hanna were waiting in the VA’s emergency room and told CBS North Carolina they were upset by how three veterans were treated.

RELATED: Veteran dies after medication error at NC VA hospital

The photos show one veteran, Jessie Lee, slumped over in his wheelchair, another bent over in his chair, and a third lying on the floor.

The McMenamins told CBS North Carolina veterans were ignored and had to wait several hours before they were helped.

On Friday, DeAnne Seekins, director of Durham VA, said the photo showing veterans in the medical center were misleading.

“We provided care to approximately 130 Veterans that day. When the photos were taken, there were approximately 50 patients in the Emergency Department area—23 receiving care and 26 in the waiting area,” Seekins said.

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After reviewing surveillance footage, the director said each time that veteran re positioned himself, the veteran on the floor was tended to by staff within two minutes. He was also provided with a warm blanket and foot stool.

“The veteran that was lying on the floor was not neglected,” Seekins said.

Seekins said an employee was rude to patients and disciplinary action has been taken in that case. “As a result of the allegation, we removed the employee from patient care,” Seekins said.

RELATED: Durham VA says viral photos showing veterans are misleading

VA staff also spoke to two veterans also depicted in the photo. The Durham VA said those two veterans reported a positive experience the day the photo was taken.

Seekins also said wait times were appropriate based on clinical assessment that day.

Lee maintains he was not seen in a timely manner that day and waited five hours for treatment.

“My condition was really bad and I was sitting there practically yelling because of the pain in my leg,” Lee said.

“It saddens me that we didn’t met our own expectations,” Seekins said. “Nothing less will be accepted at the medical center.”

CBS North Carolina will update this story as it develops.

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