The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Latest News

July 18, 2013

Doctor: Home’s inaction lead to deaths

JOHNSTOWN — The former medical director for the Hollidaysburg Veterans Home alleges his efforts to protect residents from a fast-spreading flu were muzzled by the home’s administrators – and led to as many as 38 deaths there this year.

Dr. John M. Vasil of Northern Cambria and his former employer, Adara Healthcare Staffing, allege state officials endangered residents at the home by ignoring repeated requests for flu medication and an immediate quarantine – and then terminated their contract after they went up the chain of command to try to force action, a whistleblower complaint shows.

Attorney Neil J. Gregorio said Vasil and Adara got nowhere trying to warn higher-ups with the Department of Veterans Affairs about neglect at the 550-bed home. In a two-inch thick lawsuit filed in Commonwealth Court this week,  Vasil and Adara allege that their bosses initially withheld information about the flu and then did little while it spread throughout the home.

“My clients were acting with the best interests of these veterans at heart ... but they were thwarted every step of the way by a regime that put saving money ahead of these residents,” Gregorio said, claiming Vasil’s repeated requests for the drug Tamiflu were ignored.

Officials at the Hollidaysburg Veterans Home were not reached for comment late Thursday afternoon. Messages left for the home’s director,  Deborah Nesbella, were also not returned, including a call to her Ebensburg home.  

A voicemail to Military and Veterans Affairs spokeswoman Joan Nissley was also unreturned. But Nissley told the Tribune Review in Pittsburgh that the state disputed the complaint’s claims, saying “immediate” action was taken to stop the virus from spreading.

“Initially, there was not enough Tamiflu on hand to do the entire facility,” Nissley said, explaining that “stockpiling that much is very expensive.”

Gregorio maintained the first patient was diagnosed Jan. 10 and Vasil learned of it through a nurse the next day through a message from outside the home.

“They tried to keep the information from him,” Gregorio said.

The complaint indicates a full quarantine was implemented Jan. 13 after multiple patients fell ill.

On Jan. 14, Adara Healthcare Staffing’s three-year contract was terminated –  only six months into the pact, Gregorio said.

Gregorio said the veterans home’s reasoning was “for cause”  – not fulfilling duties – but he disputes that.

“Their main issue they gave was that a second (certified) nurse practitioner wasn’t added fast enough,” Gregorio said, maintaining the process was delayed by administrators.

The complaint requests a jury trial. Gregorio said the goal of the lawsuit is to change the culture at the veterans home.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat print edition.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat e-edition.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Latest News
  • Raw oysters spike U.S. rise in bacterial infections, CDC reports

    Raw oysters, so good with hot sauce, increasingly can carry something even more unsettling to the stomach: A bacteria linked to vomiting, diarrhea and pain.

    April 19, 2014

  • Consumer spending on health care jumps as Affordable Care Act takes hold

    Nancy Beigel has known since September that she would need hernia surgery. She couldn't afford it on her $11,000 yearly income until she became eligible for Medicaid in January through President Barack Obama's signature health care law.

    April 19, 2014

  • VIDEO | Boston bomb scare defendant appears in court

    The man accused of carrying a backpack containing a rice cooker near the Boston Marathon finish line on the anniversary of the bombings was arraigned Wednesday. He's being held on $100,000 bail.

    April 19, 2014

  • Denne, Williams & Stanton Records hearing scheduled

    A Cambria County judge will consider complaints filed by two Johnstown residents seeking documents related to the city’s municipal waste water operation at hearing at the end of this month.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Sen. Bob Casey Casey targets heroin

    The heroin trade has brought addiction, death, violence and theft to Johnstown and other Pennsylvania communities.
    Figuring out how to deal with those issues is difficult for local, state and federal officials.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Drive-in to open with high-tech projector

    Drive-in movie theaters and the term “state of the art” seldom share the same sentence.
    But that will soon be the case for the Silver Drive-In, it’s owner said. The Scalp Avenue site, often marketed as a nostalgic summer night escape, soon will boast a high-end projector capable of displaying the latest and greatest blockbusters in razor sharp high-definition, theater owner Rick Rosco said.

    April 18, 2014

  • Sheetz work underway

    Earthmoving is underway at Richland Town Centre for a nearly 6,500-square-foot Sheetz store.
    And the real estate broker marketing the land says a 3,000-square-foot retail building will be built next door.

    April 18, 2014

  • Smith, Shakir Mosi Police seize heroin, money in Prospect

    Johnstown police reported that several bricks of heroin, along with $4,000 in cash and a handgun, were discovered in the city's Prospect neighborhood around 4 a.m. Friday. An arrest warrant has been issued for the man be­lieved to be the owner or renter of the two homes raided.

    April 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • Comedy night targets serious problem

    Animal advocates are using comedy to take aim at a serious problem.
    The third annual Funny Fundraiser to benefit the Nardecchia Spay and Neuter Fund will be held at 8 p.m. May 16 at Ace’s, 316 Chestnut St. in the Cambria City section of Johnstown.

    April 18, 2014

  • Local briefs 4/19/2014

    April 18, 2014

Poll

Do you think that Jack Williams will get the 270 signatures from city residents needed in order to have a referendum placed on a municipal ballot to have the city's pressure test mandate repealed?

Yes
No
I'm not sure
     View Results
Order Photos


Photo Slideshow

House Ads