Military Contractor Blamed for Mishandling Stroke

FAIRFAX, Va. (CN) – A citizen of Kosovo who supported U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan claims in court that military health care providers treated him inhumanely when he suffered a stroke on duty, forcing him to languish in a shipping container while awaiting treatment.

Because he waited nearly five days for medical care, Salih Bajrami was “left in a permanent state of disability and dependence,” according to the complaint filed on Nov. 23 in Fairfax County Circuit Court.

Bajrami says he was 48 at the time of his stroke on Dec. 9, 2014. For the two years prior Bajrami had been working for AECOM/GSS to work in Afghanistan, according to the complaint, supporting U.S. military efforts there as a driver of heavy trucks and forklifts.

AECOM/GSS allegedly subcontracted Bajrami’s work to AC First – a Virginia company that Bajrami names as a defendant to his lawsuit along with CHS Middle East.

Also known as Comprehensive Health Services, according to the complaint, the latter company provides “medical services to workforces in Iraq and Afghanistan in support of U.S. military missions.”

A father of three fluent in four languages, Bajrami says he was taken to a medical clinic near Bagram Air Base on the morning of his stroke when he began exhibiting speech problems.

Because a medical assistant determined that he would require extensive treatment, according to the complaint, Bajrami as sent to a nearby facility, TMH, which is owned by CHS Middle East.

Bajrami says TMH doctors and human resource officials at AC First soon began bickering over email for nearly two days, arguing over whether the contractor actually required an emergency airlift for treatment and, furthermore, who would foot the bill.

According to the complaint, the dispute sprang from a conflict between the initial opinion of the medical assistant – who suggested that Bajrami was “fit to fly” on a commercial airliner – and a TMH doctor who, in a 2-page referral letter, ordered that “the patient needed immediate transport by air ambulance with a medical escort, heart monitoring and supplemental oxygen.”

Bajrami says that his employer received quotes for the med-evac transport ranging from $70,000 to roughly $160,000, with the less expensive options involving treatment in Dubai and the more expensive options involving a one-way trip to Kosovo where his wife and children awaited him.

But when it was discovered that his insurance would not cover the med-evac, according to the complaint, AC First’s president “decided against the air ambulance unless [Bajrami agreed that he] would pay for it.”

The TMH doctor allegedly urged reconsideration given the urgency of the situation. Bajrami says that his employer nevertheless ignored the doctor’s pleas and sent personnel to the hospital to coerce him into signing a med-evac refusal form while he was confused and unable to speak or resist.

AC First and CHS then submitted that letter to the doctor, according to the complaint, saying Bajrami had agreed to leave for Dubai on a commercial airline with an interpreter and medical escort.

Bajrami says he was instead placed inside of a “clinic room” that was nothing more than a shipping container. He allegedly spent nearly two days there waited for his flight out of Afghanistan.

AC First and CHS had access to a large office in Dubai that could have conducted the neurological work needed, Bajrami says. Nevertheless they allegedly informed Bajrami that he would be flying to Kosovo next.

After another two days of travel, Bajrami says he was abandoned at the Kosovo airport and passed over to his family, then spent another two hours to reach a full-service hospital.

The delay of more than four days cost Bajrami “his ability to write, perform simple math calculations, read [or] to speak more than a syllable at a time,” according to the complaitn. The delayed treatment also allegedly resulted in blockages in Bajrami’s arteries, which have made reparative surgery impossible.

Bajrami seeks $20 million in compensatory and punitive damages. He is represented by Patrick Malone of the D.C. firm Malone and Associates.

Representatives for AC First and CHS Middle East did not return phone calls and emails seeking comment.