RENO, Nev. (MyNews4.com & KRNV) -- Newly-appointed VA Secretary Bob McDonald spoke for the first time about News 4's On Your Side investigation from last week, involving a patient stabbing at the Reno VA Hospital.
At the time, hospital officials would not comment about the day Marine Veteran Bruce Hill was stabbed in the neck with surgical scissors by a patient he was asked to share a room with. Now, we are hearing more from Secretary McDonald about the decision to place the two men in the same room, even after Hill said the roommate was not mentally stable.
Life for Marine Veteran Bruce Hill has not been the same since late March, when a stay at the Reno VA Hospital for severe back pain ended in a brutal attack.
"All of a sudden, I felt a hit on the side of my neck and I said, 'Man, cut that out,'" said Hill. "All the sudden, I felt boom again and I said, 'What did I tell you?' and I put my hand up and I brought it back and my whole arm was covered in blood. That's when I used the Marine Corps voice and a few choice words and said, 'You're stabbing me.'"
The middle-aged suspect, who was able to get his hands on surgical scissors, was eventually arrested inside a hospital room bathroom by VA Police, but was never charged in the assault.
"That guy should have never been on that floor," said Hill. "The second floor is for regular patients. This guy should've been immediately taken to the fifth floor. I mean, somebody that runs around with no clothes on and uses anything you can for urinal or something like that."
Questions to the VA regarding the assault and investigation into who decided to place the two patients together were unanswered.
During a press briefing at the Regional Benefits Office on Tuesday afternoon, VA Secretary Bob McDonald gave some insight into what happened. He said he is aware of the incident and it is one of the reasons he is here. "Our primary mission is to care for veterans. We want to have a safe environment for all our veterans. We cannot predict every single behavioral outcome that occurs in every situation, nor can any other medical system. So, the individual that may have done the stabbing, had no prior history of mental illness."
Senator Harry Reid also shared his thoughts on our investigation. "It's obvious. The guy who is sharing a room with you getting up urinating and deducting on the floor shouldn't be sharing a room. He should be on a psycho facility and they have that there and that's where he should have been placed."
Senator Reid is not the only high-ranking member of Congress from Nevada with serious concerns for McDonald over how the case was handled. "Can and should the VA security be able to do investigations, conduct investigations on themselves," said Nevada Senator Dean Heller. "McDonald will come back to me with an answer on that, (but) I think there's an inherent conflict."
"For them to suggest it is appropriate for them to investigate themselves, and not only investigate themselves, but then present defenses on behalf of this man who attacked my client rises to the level of a significant conflict of interest and really makes me doubt the integrity of their entire process," said Hill's attorney David Houston.
Houston is now searching for answers left out of the official police report, including the medical history and findings from the examination of the suspect's mental evaluation that were left out of the released police report. "It's very easy at this point to point the finger at the attacker because that's the obvious target, referring his conduct. However, there is more to this story than that and we hope through the course of our investigation to uncover exactly what happened."
"If you are a veteran and you come to this hospital, you should receive A-plus care," said Heller. "You shouldn't have to worry about if the patient next to you is a threat and if you are concerned about that, then action should be taken and that certainly didn't happen in this case."
"The nurses knew there was something definitely wrong with him, but the doctors wouldn't send him up to the fifth floor," said Hill.
Reid and Heller said they are both confident McDonald will get to the bottom of what happened, and implement any necessary changes to ensure the safety of patients at the Reno VA Hospital.