The entrance to the Raymond G. Murphy VA Medical Center in Albuquerque, N.M., is seen July 3. A veteran who collapsed in an Albuquerque Veteran Affairs hospital cafeteria 500 yards from the emergency room died June 30 after waiting 30 minutes for an ambulance, officials confirmed. (Russell Contreras / AP)
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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A veteran who collapsed in an Albuquerque veterans hospital cafeteria — 500 yards from an emergency room — before he died was a 71-year-old husband who had served in the Vietnam War, his family said Monday.
The family of Jim Napoleon Garcia provided his name but declined to comment further about the death that drew national attention as the Department of Veterans Affairs is scrutinized over the care of vets.
Hospital officials confirmed it took 15 to 20 minutes for the ambulance to be dispatched and take Garcia to the emergency room — a five-minute walk from the cafeteria.
No further information was available on the cause of Garcia's collapse, exactly when he died, or whether an automated external defibrillator was available nearby.
Kirtland Air Force Medical Group personnel performed CPR until the ambulance arrived, VA spokeswoman Sonja Brown said.
Staff members followed local policy in calling 911 when the man collapsed on June 30, she said. "Our policy is under expedited review," Brown said.
Hospital emergency experts said it's standard for hospitals to require staff to call 911, even with patients are near an emergency room.
Garcia's wife, Carol, said her husband had served in Vietnam from 1964 to 1966.
She said the couple moved to Albuquerque in 1994 from North Hollywood, California. "We're having a lot of people call us but we are not releasing any statements right now," she said.
The family said Garcia was an active member of the Innocents Car Club of North Hollywood, The Bottle and Insulator Club of New Mexico, and a collector of coins, insulators and Depression-era glasses.
His death came as the Department of Veterans Affairs is under scrutiny for widespread reports of long delays for treatment and medical appointments and of veterans dying while on waiting lists.
A recent review cited significant and chronic system failures in the nation's health system for veterans. The review also portrayed the struggling agency as battling a corrosive culture of distrust, lacking in resources and ill-prepared to deal with an influx of new and older veterans with a range of medical and mental health care needs.
Audit findings show scheduling schemes and other violations of department policy proliferated throughout the Southwest and were common nationwide.
Officials with the VA center in Albuquerque have repeatedly denied having secret waiting lists but acknowledged only recently that the system in New Mexico has problems with waiting times.