Viral photo of Tennessee veteran on VA hospital floor sparks outrage

(Gail Hobbs photo)

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WZTV) - A photo showing a veteran passed out on the floor at a middle Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs hospital has sparked outrage and continues to go viral.

However, the VA is saying the story being shared on social media isn't what transpired.

FOX 17 News spoke with Gail Hobbs, who took a photo of her brother, Tony Sims, passed out on the floor at Murfreesboro VA. It’s been liked and shared more than 300,000 times in just three days.

Gail, who has been taking care of Tony since April, said she took Tony to the Murfreesboro VA on Thursday, where he had blood work and a urine sample taken. According to Gail, despite Tony feeling very ill, the doctor told them both that he was “OK,” but the doctor wanted to do an MRI.

After the MRI, Gail and Tony said they waited in a room that did not have a bed. Gail told FOX 17 News she repeatedly asked the doctor for a bed so that Tony may lie down because he was very tired, but the doctor allegedly said he couldn’t be admitted, therefore not getting a bed, because he was not sick.

Tony was also cold and asked for a blanket, which nurses brought to him, according to Hobbs. Tony put the blanket on the floor and went to lay down, but Gail said he passed out before he reached the floor.

That’s when she took the viral photo, captioned, “This is my brother Tony Mims laying in the floor at VA Hospital in Murfreesboro the Dr wasn’t sure if he was sick enough to be admitted to hospital we waited eight hours for them to put him in a bed he can’t even walk he deserves better treatment he served his country.”

As of Monday afternoon, the post had been shared more than 232,000 times with more than 103,000 likes.

Gail said the nurses immediately came to Tony’s aid after he was on the floor.

“The nurses were wonderful,” Gail said over the phone.

The next day, Gail said Tony visited another doctor at the hospital who diagnosed him with pneumonia. When Gail asked how the doctor found that out, they replied, “by a simple swab of the nose.”

Gail says Tony’s previous doctor didn’t look into anything other than his blood work, urine sample and MRI.

“I don’t blame the VA, the VA has a long way to go to be perfect, like everyone,” Gail said. “But you can’t lump everything together.”

Gail says she only blames the doctor who she believes didn’t give Tony proper care. Gail didn’t want to go on camera, and said she was overwhelmed with the amount of attention the photo has gotten. She says she didn’t do it for the publicity, but to get her brother proper care.

Officials from the local VA, including the Murfreesboro VA director, met with Tony over the weekend. Gail is hoping to have Tony is a nursing home by the end of the week.

Meanwhile, FOX 17 News reached out to the local VA and received the following response:

As soon as we learned of this photo on Friday night, we immediately reviewed the Veteran’s medical record and have since spoken to the Veteran personally. Our review determined that the facts are much different than what’s presented in the Facebook post.

Tony Mims was admitted to VA Tennessee Valley Healthcare System August 2, the day the photo was taken. During a ten-minute wait for his provider to return to his exam room, Mims said that his sister, who had accompanied him to his appointment, helped him move to the floor of the exam room because he was tired. Mr. Mims estimated he was on the floor about ten minutes before a provider returned.

Mims is now an inpatient in our facility and he is being well taken care of. Our medical center director has visited the patient and has his assurance that he received good care and has no complaints.

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