Talihina Veterans Center Under Investigation After Patient Dies At Facility

TALIHINA (KFSM) — The local Veterans Affairs Office is under investigation after one of its residents died in its care.

VA officials said his cause of death was an infection called sepsis, but maggots were reportedly found in his wound.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health received an incident report during October of this year about the veteran's death. A spokeswoman told 5NEWS they could not release the document because it had information that would identify the victim, which is prohibited by HIPAA laws.

“We've heard this rumor, and since I don't work at the Veterans Center I can't actually comment on any specifics,” Talihina Mayor Don Faulkner said.

Four employees of the Veterans Center reportedly resigned after the resident died. One of them was rehired at a Veterans Center in Lawton after a review of the incident in Talihina, according to the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health cited the Veterans Center for “Infection Control” back in July of this year for not ensuring staff wore gloves while giving a patient insulin. The center was also flagged during the summer of 2015 for multiple citations, including employees not changing gloves or washing hands before treating wounds.

“I'm not trying to defend that because we all know that's not good,” Faulkner said. “But in all fairness to this facility, I'm sure if you looked at the other Veterans Centers around Oklahoma or at other hospitals in Oklahoma or Arkansas you would find violations time to time that the help didn't do exactly what protocol called for.”

The mayor also addressed a rumor that the center might close.

“It would be very devastating to Talihina,” he said. “What I try to explain to people is the loss of 265 jobs in our community would be the equivalent of Fort Smith losing over 20,000 jobs at one time.”

He also explained the center is 100 years old and those with the VA are concerned about recruiting doctors and the water quality.

“If the VA will sit down with officials in Southeast Oklahoma, we can find solutions to any of these concerns in any of these problems and keep a facility here in Talihina that's good for everybody,” Faulkner said.

He said within two months the water quality will be in compliance after a $4 million upgrade.