MADISON, Wis. – After reports of veterans being exposed to HIV and other infectious diseases at the scandal-plagued Tomah Veterans Affairs Medical Center, now comes word that a veteran jumped out of a third-floor window this week at the troubled Veterans Assistance Foundation on the hospital campus.
Don Roach, the foundation’s executive director, said the incident occurred Wednesday. He said a veteran who participates in the Veterans Assistance program leaped out the window of the medical center’s Building 407.
“We have no comment on the reason for this individual’s actions,” Roach said in a statement. “He was transported to the Tomah Memorial Hospital by ambulance. We are unaware of his medical condition.”
Officials are not releasing the veteran’s name.
A source who works at the medical center told Wisconsin Watchdog that the man’s condition was not life-threatening and that as of Friday afternoon he was in stable condition.
Victoria Brahm, acting director of the medical center, sent an email notifying employees of the incident.
“Early this morning a veteran from the Veterans Assistance Foundation program jumped out of the third floor window at the VAF day room,” she wrote in an email obtained by Wisconsin Watchdog. “A medical emergency was called and the Veteran was sent via ambulance to Tomah Memorial Hospital where the Veteran is recovering from injuries sustained.”
Brahm sent out a follow-up email Wednesday evening reminding employees to “Be There for our veterans in a professional capacity, which may include simple hello’s, appreciation for their service or a smile as you pass in the hallway.”
She noted the holidays are a time of increased risk of depression and suicide incidents, and urged employees to “please pay attention to your friends, neighbors and colleagues who may benefit from the smile or a simple conversation as well.”
The hospital source who spoke to Wisconsin Watchdog on condition of anonymity said administration is trying to blame holiday depression for the veteran deciding to jump out of the window, but that’s a questionable excuse at a hospital in the national spotlight for its practices of overprescribing painkillers.
“They are trying to say it’s the holidays. That’s a good way to slap something on it,” the source said.
Word of the apparent suicide attempt followed on the heels of reports that 592 veterans may have been exposed to HIV, hepatitis C, and other infections after a dentist at the Tomah hospital failed to follow standard infection control procedures for months.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is not releasing the name of the dentist.
Brahm told news outlets this week that the risk of infection is low but officials wanted to alert those who may be affected.
It’s the latest chapter in a tragic story of alleged abuse at a government-run medical facility infamously known as “Candyland” because of the high volume of painkillers prescribed to patients. A35-year-old Marine veteran in August 2014 died of a toxic cocktail of prescribed drugs while at the medical center.
The VAF has had its own problems. The Tomah-based nonprofit has been ordered by the VA to leave space at the hospital where it houses and provides treatment for some 50 homeless veterans.
The VA cited safety concerns in ending the program’s $17,000 monthly lease, including security issues. That followed the death of a 54-year-old woman staying at the VAF’s care center.
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