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Dallas VA Hospital Closes Psychiatric Wing After 4th Suicide

Dallas VA Hospital
Dallas VA Hospital

Dallas VA Hospital Closes Psychiatric Wing After 4th Suicide

by Kevin Caruso

April 15, 2008

The Dallas VA Hospital closed one of its psychiatric wings after the fourth mentally ill patient died by suicide this year.

In January, two men who met each other in the psychiatric ward died by suicide after being discharged. Shortly thereafter, a disabled veteran hanged himself from a frame on his wheelchair in the ward.

On April 4, the fourth person died after hanging himself with a bed sheet in the ward.

Joseph Dalpiaz, director of the VA North Texas Health Care System, ordered the shutdown of the south wing a day after the latest suicide, but ten patients remain in the north wing. The patient capacity for both winds is 51 and no new patients will be admitted for the time being.

Dr. Catherine Orsak, head of mental health for the VA's North Texas health system, said: “[Joseph Dalpiaz] decided he wanted to ... give us some time to assess the environment of care and make sure things were as safe as possible in our patient unit. It's a horrible tragedy and it may not have been preventable, but we wanted to look again to see if anything can be done to increase safety.”

Investigators from the national Veterans Affairs office will come to Dallas next week to assess the safety of the Dallas psychiatric ward.

But these actions are too late for Shirley Bemps, who lost her husband to suicide in the psychiatric ward on Feb. 5.

“I blame the doctors,” she said. “If he was a high-risk patient like they said, he should have been watched and monitored. They haven't called me to offer condolences. They won't even respond to me.”

If you or someone you know is suicidal, please go to the Home Page of this website for immediate help.

Thank you.

I love you.

Take care,

Kevin Caruso

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