Salt Lake VA apologizes, promises change after veteran shares photos of dirty exam room

SALT LAKE CITY — A United States Army veteran wants to see changes at the Salt Lake City Veterans Affairs Medical Center after being placed in an exam room he says was unsanitary.

In early April, Christopher Wilson went to the VA for a procedure to receive 18 injections around his ankle.

When he was placed in exam room 8, he noticed it was in a state of disrepair.

Photos he took show a trash can overflowing with garbage, a sink splattered with dry casting plaster, and a disorganized counter.

“I figured they would say, 'Oh, this room is not clean' and take me somewhere else, but they just kind of blew past and didn’t acknowledge it,” Wilson said.

He was shocked by the condition of the room.

“I have never been in a situation like that,” he said. “When you think medical, you think sanitary.”

Wilson didn’t ask to be placed in a new room because he had already waited 45 minutes to be placed in that room.

Dr. Karen Gribbin, the chief of staff of the Salt Lake VA, apologized to Wilson.

“I was taken aback by the condition of the room,” Gribbin said. “The patient, Mr. Wilson should not have been placed in the room in that condition.”

She is investigating why the room wasn’t cleaned prior to Wilson’s exam and plans to review the facility’s procedures with staff Monday morning.

“I do not want another veteran to experience this,” she said.

While Dr. Gribbin describes this as a “rare event,” Wilson believes it is just one example of a system overwhelmed and without the resources to serve the large number of veterans in the region.

“The people who are there to serve us, kind of see us as a hinderance more than anything,” Wilson said.

He said the quality of care received at the VA misses the mark of what veterans deserve.

“It’s frustrating,” Wilson said. “I go to another hospital’s emergency room and it’s such a different experience.”

He hopes his photos, which have been retweeted more than 5,000 times, help bring about change.

“I’m hopeful getting some eyes on it will actually get something done,” Wilson said.

Change, he hopes, that allows veterans to get the quality health care they deserve and have earned.

“If you had the choice would you go there,” he asked. “I don’t like going there.”