Woman says father bitten over 100 times by ants before death at Atlanta VA Medical Center

ATLANTA (WSB/CNN) - The Department of Veterans Affairs in Atlanta is making changes after the daughter of a Georgia veteran made a horrible discovery in his bedroom. She found her father, a Vietnam veteran in his VA nursing home bed covered with ant bites.

Laquna Ross found her father, Air Force veteran Joel Marrable, covered in ant bites at the VA Medical Center in Atlanta. (Source: Laquna Ross/WSB/CNN)

Laquna Ross said she felt overwhelmed after she found her dad with swollen, red bumps all over his body, and his hands swollen when she visited him last week at the Eagles Nest Community Living Center.

“Worried and confused, because it wasn't how he looked when I saw him the last time,” said Ross.

She didn’t hear a word from anyone at the nursing home for veterans on the Atlanta VA Medical Center campus.

Ross’s father Joel Marrable served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War. Ross said her dad was already in poor health with terminal cancer.

When Ross asked a center staffer about all those bumps, the staffer said it was because of ants. Ross says he was bitten more than 100 times.

"The staff member says to me, ‘When we walked in here, we thought Mr. Marrable was dead. We thought he wasn't even alive, because the ants were all over him,’" said Ross.

Ross said the ants were all over the room – on the ceiling, the walls and the beds.

Ross described how center workers bathed Marrable and cleaned his room, but she said the center had an issue with the ants again the next day.

Marrable was moved to a new room where Ross said he later died.

"If it didn't promote his body to die quicker, what is the protocol within the VA just to manage when something like this happens?” she asked.

While Ross is still waiting for answers, there is one thing she knows for sure.

“He served his country in the Air Force, and I think that he deserved better,” she said.

The VA issued a statement that read:

"The Atlanta VA Health Care System leadership team has been notified that ants were found in our Community Living Center and impacting patients. CLC staff immediately cared for the Veterans and took action to ensure no other CLC residents were impacted. We would like to express our heartfelt remorse and apology to the Veterans’ families and have reached out to them to offer appropriate assistance.

The following actions have been taken to address the ant issue at the CLC:

  • All bedrooms have been stripped, inspected for ants, and cleaned by Environmental Management Services
  • All open containers and open food have been removed from all bedrooms
  • The Chief Geriatrics Nurse is working with Voluntary Services to obtain plastic containers to assist the residents with sealing their snacks for storage in the bedrooms
  • The CLC staff is conducting additional visits specifically inspecting for insects and ants
  • The EMS Pest Control continues to treat and monitor all CLC rooms daily to ensure no negative impact to patient care
  • A private pest control company conducted an independent assessment on Sep 9
  • A regional VA pest control expert will conduct a site visit to assess the CLC ant issue by Sep 13

Atlanta VA Health Care System always strives to provide Veterans with the very best health care available. When we don’t meet that standard, we hold ourselves accountable. That’s why we have initiated a fact finding on the nursing and environmental care processes to ensure we are providing safe and effective care.Our response to this incident is an opportunity to reevaluate our overall operations to provide even better care to our Veterans moving forward.

Our response to this incident is an opportunity to reevaluate our overall operations to provide even better care to our Veterans moving forward."

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