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Veteran dies waiting for ambulance in VA hospital

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 4, 2014 at 2:08 am •  Published: July 4, 2014

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — An Albuquerque Veteran Affairs hospital is undergoing a policy review after a veteran collapsed in a cafeteria just 500 yards from the emergency room and died after waiting for an ambulance.

It took 15 to 20 minutes for the ambulance to be dispatched Monday and take the man from one building to the other, which is about a five-minute walk, officials at the hospital said Thursday. Kirtland Air Force Medical Group personnel performed CPR until the ambulance arrived, VA spokeswoman Sonja Brown said.

The staff followed policy in calling 911 when the man collapsed, Brown said. However, "our policy is under expedited review," she said.

Paul Bronston, a California emergency-room physician and chair of Ethics and Professional Policy Committee of the American College of Medical Quality, said it may sound ridiculous that staff had to call 911 but that practice is the standard at hospitals. Typically, an ambulance would arrive faster, and other factors can stall workers trying to rush patients to the emergency room on foot, he said.

"The question I would have (is) ... was there an AED (automated external defibrillator) on site as required?" he said. Bronston said 90 percent of those who collapse are afflicted by heart problems and an AED could help them.

It was not known what caused the man to collapse or whether an AED was nearby.

The man's name hasn't been released, but news of the death spread Thursday at the Raymond G. Murphy VA Medical Center among veterans who were visiting for various medical reasons.

Lorenzo Calbert, a U.S. Army veteran of the Vietnam War, said it was sad that a fellow veteran had to die so close to where he could have received help.

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