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Veteran dies 500 yards from VA hospital emergency room

ALBUQUERQUE — A veteran who collapsed in an Albuquerque Veterans Affairs hospital cafeteria — 500 yards from the emergency room — died after waiting 30 minutes for an ambulance, officials confirmed Thursday.

It took half an hour for the ambulance to be dispatched and take the man from one building to the other, which is about a five-minute walk, officials at the hospital said.

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Kirtland Air Force Medical Group personnel performed CPR until the ambulance arrived, VA spokeswoman Sonja Brown said.

Staff followed policy in calling 911 when the man collapsed Monday, she said. ‘‘Our policy is under expedited review,’’ Brown said. That policy is a local one, she said.

The veteran’s name has not been released. News of his death spread Thursday at the Raymond G. Murphy VA Medical Center among veterans who were to get treatment.

Lorenzo Calbert, 65, a US Army veteran of the Vietnam War, said it was sad a fellow veteran died so close to where he could have received help.

‘‘There’s no reason for it,’’ he said. ‘‘They have so many workers. They could have put him on the gurney and run faster than that ambulance.’’

The death comes as the Department of Veterans Affairs faces scrutiny for reports of long delays for treatment, medical appointments, and of veterans dying while on waiting lists.

A review last week cited ‘‘significant and chronic system failures’’ in the nation’s health system for veterans. The review portrayed the agency as one 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.

The scathing report by Rob Nabors, deputy White House chief of staff, said the Veterans Health Administration, the VA sub agency that provides health care to about 8.8 million veterans a year, must be fundamentally restructured.

Marc Landy, a Boston College political science professor, said the Department of Veterans Affairs is a large bureaucracy with various local policies like the one in Albuquerque.

Although the agency needs to undergo reform, Landy said it is unfair to attack the VA too harshly on the recent Albuquerque death because it appears to be so unusual.

‘‘I think we have to be careful,’’ he said. ‘‘Let’s not beat up too much on the VA while they are already facing criticism.’’

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