Death of Missing Resident Spurs VA Bedford Healthcare Changes

September 10, 2021

The VA Bedford Healthcare System has implemented “several important process changes” to ensure that residents of apartments leased to Caritas Communities, Inc. are monitored for their welfare, a spokesperson for the hospital said Friday.

The steps are in response to the death of Timothy White in May 2020. His body was discovered in a stairwell, more than a month after he was last seen.

A VA inspector general’s report, released Thursday, concluded that the disappearance “did not receive the attention it deserved from VA.” The report said the hospital is legally required “to provide for the protection of all persons on its property,” including residents in so-called enhanced-use lease apartments.

The report said, “the medical center, including its VA police, did not initiate a response to Mr. White’s disappearance under VHA’s missing patients policy because he was considered a resident and not a patient.”

Melissa Bailey, public affairs director at the VA Hospital, acknowledged that “the VA police department’s failure to locate Mr. White resulted in part from the police and others at VA not considering the Veteran an at-risk missing patient, which would have required a stairwell search.”

As a result, she reported:

  • VA Police conduct daily patrols of Building 5, leased to Caritas, and that includes common areas and stairwells.
  • Housekeeping staff performs weekly cleaning of the exterior stairwells of that building.
  • VA police procedures have been implemented, “widening the definition of whom they have the authority to search for anywhere on campus.”
  • A review of all active enhanced-use leases is underway to determine whether current lease language is clear regarding maintenance and security obligations. Also, oversight document checklists are being reviewed to clarify the services VA is required to provide under the enhanced-use lease.

Bailey added that now, “Weekly meetings occur between VA Bedford Healthcare System and lessee agency staff to discuss operational and case management topics.”

Mike Rosenberg can be reached at [email protected], or 781-983-1763

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