Hospital worker raises questions about quality of Ft. Jackson care

By Kara Gormley - bio | email

FORT JACKSON, SC (WIS) - The parents of two soldiers who died during basic training turned over all of their sons' medical records in the hopes of bringing to light the problems with their deaths.

The families believe soldiers at Fort Jackson may not be getting the basics when it comes to medical care.

Twenty-year-old Pvt. Jamal Britt and 23-year-old Spc. Christopher Hogg were both members of the 3rd Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment. Both men were fit and faithful when they died in September during basic training at the fort.

"I'm prepared if he's in Afghanistan, Iraq, or any other place," said Jamal's father, John. "I'm prepared for that, but I'm not prepared for them to come to my door from basic training."

John was not prepared for what he discovered in his son's medical records. Mistakes that he believes cost his son his life. And he is not alone.

"These are -- the Britt and Hogg cases-- very young soldiers," said one hospital worker who asked to remain anonymous. "Their lives taken so shortly and so needlessly, could have been prevented. Very well prevented."

That anonymous staff member says the soldier deaths are the tip of the iceberg and
inexperienced leadership and substandard care at the military hospital is leading to unnecessary deaths and too many close calls.

The hospital worker says something has got to give.

"It would floor anybody to know what's going on at Moncrief," said the worker.

Col. Nancy Hughes has been commander of Moncrief for 18 months. She's a midwife with an extensive nursing background. While this is her first time running a hospital, she's confident in her hospital and her skills.

"I sleep very well at night and I believe in the care we do here at Moncrief," said Hughes.

Hughes gave us a tour of the what's called the urgent care unit. She went to great measures to point out it was not an emergency room.

"When you have an emergency Room, intensive care, labor and delivery, you need physicians and nurses certified to do those things," said Hughes. "That's what they're trained for."

Hughes says Moncrief doesn't have a large enough number of trauma cases to require an ER.

"Our people are trained to take care of acute minor illnesses," said Hughes. "Your colds, your flues, your sprained ankles, minor cuts. Those kinds of things."

That's part of the reason the hospital worker is disturbed by Britt's case. Britt's medical records show he had an extremely elevated heart rate when a drill sergeant brought him in from the field -- a red flag according to the worker who said Moncrief isn't equipped to handle cardiac cases or any serious problems. It's another thing that bothers Britt's father.

"He was brought there as an emergency case," said John, "And his vitals are not taken until 12:54; his first set of vitals -- that's almost an hour after getting him there."

Britt's father says Jamal stayed at the military hospital at least three hours after his vitals were taken.

In Britt's file, a doctor writes, "Problems with lab today. Long delays in getting results and results verified."

"Delayed diagnoses is part of the reason I believe he eventually died," said the hospital worker.

Britt died a short time after being transported  to a civilian hospital. Legally, Hughes is barred from speaking specifically about these cases.

"I'm very confident on any given day that our labs and radiology services meet our needs," said Hughes.

Jamal Britt was the second soldier to die of heat stroke at the fort In September. Then there's Hogg's case. His parents remember getting the call.

"The call was after he was already in Palmetto Hospital," said Hogg's mother Sarah Wybo. "He had been put on a vent and they were telling us to come up right away."

Hogg went to Moncrief in early September after a report shows he passed out, defecated on himself, and had fever and a cough. Those were symptoms the staff member says should have sounded an alarm in a year when the potentially deadly effects of swine flu had everyone on edge.

Instead of admitting Hogg as an inpatient at Moncrief where he could be monitored, the insider says he was sent to what's called "sick-in-quarters."

"They are left to their own and sent to a barracks to take care of themselves," said the worker.

Hogg returned to Moncrief the next day where lung x-rays showed he had pneumonia. While he was prescribed an antibiotic, the report says nobody was sure he got the medicine.

Hogg was sent back to sick in quarters again. And while his mom says Hogg was given a swine flu test, it was before a holiday weekend.

"They kind of put it on a shelf for the long weekend and didn't test it till they came back on that Tuesday," said Wybo.

Hogg visited the military hospital for at least three days seeking help before he was sent to Palmetto Richland where he would die days later. Hogg's death made national news as Fort Jackson's first H1N1, or swine flu, death.

"Things need to change because it's going to happen again," said Wybo. "It shouldn't have happened to him."

"I don't think there was anything not done correctly," defended Hughes. "Truly that would have changed what happened in the long run."

Hughes says Hogg's case was reviewed and changes were made at the fort in regards to swine flu cases.

"I would say that because we had seen such and increased number in our population of H1N1 and then we started to see an increase in the number of pneumonias that's what prompted our change," said Hughes. "Not specifically his death."

Was something wrong in these cases? We took Britt and Hogg's record to a civilian doctor off post. The emergency doctor, who asked not to be identified, said that the cases raise risk management and quality of care concerns, but says he can not say that the deaths were preventable even with the best care available.

Copyright 2010 WIS. All rights reserved.