In July of 2016 Vietnam veteran, Bill Nutter died at the Bedford VA Medical Center when his nurse aid failed to check up on him during her night shift because she was too busy playing video games.

Bill Nutter,68, required 24-hour monitoring and needed to be checked on, on an hourly basis because of his arrhythmia his heart could stop without warning.

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In Vietnam, Nutter served as a door gunner where he was exposed to the toxic herbicide called Agent Orange. It was used to strip the trees of its leaves to make it harder for enemies to hide. His exposure to this dangerous chemical led to health problems like diabetes which caused damage to his kidneys and led to the amputation of both his legs. Nutter also experienced severe respiratory problems because of Agent Orange.

After Bill recovered from a severe case of pneumonia at Lowell General Hospital his family sent him to VA Medical Centre because they thought it was the best place for him.

“He seemed fine, healthy,” said Bill’s daughter, Brigitte Darton.“I was hoping the VA would give him the care that non-VA facilities didn’t,”

Being a hospital ranked by the Veterans Administration as one of its best nationwide his family felt reassured that he would receive the best care.

Nutter was a vulnerable patient, he couldn’t get out of bed by himself and his hands were so crippled he was unable to press the call button if there was an emergency. His wife also noted that he couldn’t speak louder than a whisper after his surgery, so no one would hear him if he called for help. He should’ve been checked on at least hourly.

“And when a nurse discovered Nutter dead the next morning, the hospital’s internal report shows she announced it to her boss with a crude gesture signifying a slit throat,” the Globe’s Andrea Estes wrote

On July 3, 2016, a nurse found Nutter dead in his hospital bed due to cardiac arrest. With a crude gesture, the nurse communicated that the patient had passed.  “Mr. N9041 is gone,” the nurse told her supervisor, impersonally using Bill’s VA patient number.

The day after Bill’s death, his wife Carol Nutter, received a phone call from a staff member of the hospital.

”They said he went into cardiac arrest and [they] couldn’t do anything about it,” Carol Nutter remembers

Later, Carol got the whole story from a doctor over the phone. According to Nutter, the doctor was relaying what a woman was telling him.

“they weren’t doing their job, and if they had done what I told them to, he could have possibly been alive because I told them to check on him once or twice an hour,”

Patricia Waible, the nurse who was assigned to care for Nutter did not check on him at all during her shift, instead, she played computer games all night.

At first, she denied that she had not checked up on Nutter, but then later confessed when she was told by an investigator that they have video evidence of her not leaving her computer during her entire shift.

Patricia was reassigned to a cafeteria job, and the nurse who found him and made the “cut-throat” gesture was terminated. The agency only suspended Waible with pay after The Globe reported them to Veteran Affairs.

The Globe reports that the inspector general of The Department of Veterans Affairs has launched a criminal investigation to identify how the system may have failed Nutter. Bill Nutter’s family is considering taking legal action against the VA

“My dad might not have lived another five months, who knows? But if we could have had another month with him — this lady took that away,” his daughter said.

Bill Nutter’s case opened up a whole pandora’s box of complaints about the Bedford VA Medical Centre. Numerous whistleblowers brought attention to the lack of care and safety concerns.

“Whistle-blowers and families of veterans have claimed that relatively healthy patients deteriorate within months after being admitted to the Bedford VA. Others say that veterans living in long-term care buildings on the campus sometimes go without food for many hours, or they’re left in soiled clothes or bed linens. And buildings are laced with asbestos, a Bedford electrician charges, exposing everyone to the cancer-causing material.” The Boston Globe reads.

In response to the flood of complaints against them, Bedford VA leaders said that they are working on improvements where they are warranted.

“Secretary Shulkin has made clear that VA will hold employees accountable when the facts demonstrate that they have failed to live up to the high standards taxpayers expect from us,” Curtis Cashour, Shulkin’s spokesman, stated.

Nutter’s daughter wondered why the hospital took so long to terminate the nurse’s aide at fault and why they had to hear the full story through a reporter and not the VA.

“People need to understand it’s not about his health or how sick he was,” Darton comments, “it’s about the care he didn’t receive from the VA.”

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