ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Newly released emergency-dispatch tapes reveal details about efforts to revive a Vietnam veteran who collapsed with a heart attack in Albuquerque’s Veterans Affairs Medical Center and died.
Two calls were made while Jim Napoleon Garcia, 71, lay on the floor as an ambulance was called to take him to an emergency room 500 yards away, according to the tapes released Thursday to the Albuquerque Journal.
In the first, a female caller described how the man was unresponsive and bleeding from his mouth and nose. She also expressed frustration that doctors at a cafeteria table weren’t doing more to help.
“We called our rapid response here at the hospital, but unfortunately they won’t respond to him because he’s out of the main medical building,” said the caller, whose name was not provided. She added that the man was being hooked up to an emergency defibrillator.
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“Paramedics are already on their way out there,” the dispatcher told her.
“There’s a table of doctors sitting right next to him and none of them are doing s_,” the woman continued.
“OK, I’m sorry about that,” the dispatcher responded. Neither the caller nor the dispatcher elaborated.
In a second call minutes later, a male caller said nurses were performing CPR but the man didn’t appear to be breathing.
Hospital spokesman Bill Anderson said he could not confirm who was in the cafeteria. “Regardless of who was sitting at nearby tables, VA staff, along with Kirtland AFB personnel, immediately responded in providing basic life support to this veteran,” an email from Anderson said Friday. “The staff were heroic in their attempts to save the life of this veteran.”
VA spokeswoman Sonja Brown said the response to the emergency remains under investigation.
Hospital emergency experts have said it’s standard for hospitals to require staff to call 911, even when patients are near an emergency room.
The death of Garcia on June 30 prompted new outrage against the VA as it faces allegations that veterans have endured long wait times and died waiting to see a doctor around the country. The revelations have led to a major shake-up of VA operations.
The 911 records indicate an ambulance arrived to aid Garcia 10.5 minutes after the first emergency call. Once there, paramedics spent about 20 minutes trying to revive Garcia, who was ultimately transported to the VA Medical Center’s emergency department.
Hospital officials said it is VA policy to call 911, although the emergency-response team will be called to nonresponsive patients in clinics and five other buildings on the campus, not including the cafeteria.
Brown said its rapid response policy is under review.