After investigating the death of a Korean War veteran, the Oklahoma Health Department found several violations at the Norman Veterans Center. The most serious: failing to provide a ‘safe environment' for residents.
The report was a lengthy one, 66 pages, listing multiple violations that also included failing to report a fight that involved a patient and his death to the proper authorities.
James Laughlin, 85, a Korean War vet had been in the Norman Veterans Center just a month when according to the report he had an altercation with another resident. Five and a half hours later, he fell next to his bed, hitting his head and died two days later.
“Whenever it first happened, we thought it was, not really natural causes, it was an accident,” said Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs spokesperson Shane Faulkner. “We still believe the death was from an accident.”
According to the medical examiner, Mr. Laughlin's cause of death was “acute right subdural bleed due to blunt force trauma to head.” Manner of death was unknown.
Still, according to the Oklahoma Health Department investigation the resident who assaulted Laughlin “had assaultive behaviors with four different residents in the previous approximate three month period.” And because of that “a Serious and Immediate Threat to resident safety was determined to exist related to the facility's failure to provide supervision of residents with assaultive behaviors.”
“Knowing his story and knowing he was prone to behavior episodes, he probably should have had a higher supervision to be watching for any changes in mood or behavior or something that would trigger any of these episodes,” said Dorya Huser, the Chief of the Long Term Care Division of the Oklahoma State Department of Health.
Falkner said the Oklahoma Veterans Administration is conducting its own investigation and will turn their findings over to the Cleveland County District Attorney. They haven't decided yet what they will do with the results of the health department investigation.
“There were several areas in their findings we don't really agree with,” he said. “There's some talk about protesting some of those decisions.”
These violations typically result in a fine of $10,000 a day until the issue is addressed. But veterans centers are not subject to the penalty.