Long, excessive wait times. Growing black mold. Cockroaches and bugs in the kitchen, dirty hallways, and faulty equipment. The Edward Hines Jr. Veterans Affairs Hospital in Chicago, Illinois is no paradise for retired servicemen to get adequate healthcare and treatment. However, the hospital has finally hit an even newer low: bodies of deceased veterans have been left unattended in the morgue to rot for up to two months, without proper burials set in motion.
The revelation was exposed by an alleged whistleblower, whose identity has not been confirmed due to fear of backlash. However, the nameless whistleblower cited one specific individual responsible for the careless handling of the bodies of former military servicemen: Chief of Patient Administrative Services Christopher Wirtjes.
The whistleblower filed a letter of complaint to the VA hospital’s inspector general, demanding accountability be held about the decaying state of the hospital. In regards to the decaying corpses in the basement morgue, the anonymous employee says “the Chief of PAS has the funds available, yet has no sense of urgency to lay the veteran to rest… Some veteran’s remains have been left in our hospital morgue for 45 days or more until they are stacked to capacity at times.”
“Hines VA — the hospital that has been overrun with cockroaches and mold and left vets waiting for care for months on secret wait lists, has reached a new low in the treatment of our veterans,” announced Sen. Mark Kirk, after his office was forwarded the complaint letter. “We now have reports of bodies being left to decompose in the morgue for months on end.”
Kirk has also begun calling for employment termination of Wirtjes. Evidence has also circulated of a Hines clerk emailing Wirtjes about the burial of a particular body that had been left in the morgue for over 30 days. None of the emails were answered:
Dec. 7, 2015. – Clerk to Wirtjes: “[There is] an invoice for an unclaimed veteran that has been here for over 30 days. Please approve for burial at Abraham Lincoln.”
Dec. 10, 2015. – Clerk to Wirtjes: “Approval of unclaimed Vet D?? Status?”
Dec. 23, 2015. – Clerk to Wirtjes: “Any further on my poor unclaimed? I WILL file a police report, but I hate doing that…”
Eventually, the said body had completely liquefied and the bag burst apart when staff had attempted to move it, said Kirk’s deputy chief of staff, Alissa McCurley.
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