Friday, May 04, 2001

Brother's case goes public outside VA Medical Center

By Tim Bonfield
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Many of the thousands of commuters on their way Thursday morning to university and health-care jobs in the Clifton-Corryville area took notice of a man picketing at the front entrance to the VA Medical Center.

        The sign-toting man was Bob Finley, 68, a Korean War combat veteran who lives in Highland Heights and who has several complaints about how the medical center has been treating his brother, Don Finley, who also fought in Korea, side by side with Bob.

        “I really believe they've done damage to Don, to the extent that he'll never come back to the way he was,” Bob said.

[photo] Bob Finley, 68, of Highland Heights, carries a picket sign outside the VA Medical Center in Corryville.
(Tony Jones photo)
| ZOOM |
        But officials at the VA Medical Center deny they have done anything wrong. In fact, they say, they are going to great lengths to develop a treatment plan that satisfies the family.

        Don, a 70-year-old resident of Newport, lost an eye in Korea and has developed several health problems in recent years, including heart troubles. He had a defibrillator installed to control his heartbeat.

        According to his brother, Don started having hallucinations about three months ago, so he went to the Cincinnati VA. But last month, after taking a sedative to prepare him for a brain imaging test, Don lapsed into a comalike state that lasted 11 days.

        He has regained consciousness but remains in the hospital.

        Bob Finley contends the VA doctors committed a medical error by giving his brother a medication that previously had resulted in a bad reaction. The VA disagrees.

        “His viewpoint is his viewpoint. But there have been no incidents of malpractice or over-medication,” said VA spokeswoman Suzanne Tate.

        The VA Medical Center knows Bob Finley. He's the same man who picketed the hospital last year, demanding that the center provide him a brand-name drug instead of a generic drug for his medical needs.

        “We gave him the brand-name drug. But then he wanted to see the change nationwide and we can't do that. Our budget doesn't allow it,” Ms. Tate said.

        Mr. Finley also opposes a proposal to move Don to a long-term psychiatric facility in Chillicothe, Ohio. He wants the VA to pay to place Don in a private nursing home closer to home, preferably in Northern Kentucky. All sides agree that a VA nursing home in Fort Thomas is not properly equipped to handle his care.

        Ms. Tate said regulations do not allow the VA to place Don in a private nursing home. However, she also said the move to Chillicothe hasn't been decided.

        As cars passed by Thursday, some drivers just looked at the man and his sign. A few honked in apparent encouragement.

        Mr. Finley recalled pulling his wounded brother off the battlefield in Korea 49 years ago. He vowed to keep fighting for him.

        “They put him in the condition he's in. He fought for his country. They should take care of him,” he said.

        Ms. Tate said that's exactly what the VA is trying to do.

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