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Surgeon's death leaves void at Spokane VA

While colleagues grieve the loss of Dr. John Marshall, the reality sets in that his death creates another void for the short-staffed Spokane VA.

SPOKANE, Wash. – In between the absolute shock and sadness of losing a colleague, employees at the Spokane Veterans Affairs Hospital know that their work will not stop.

Their acting chief surgeon, Dr. John Marshall, was found dead in the Spokane River on Tuesday just one day after being reported missing.

They are not only grieving over his passing, but now they are tasked with filling yet another opening at the hospital.

“As veterans need to be seen, he was here to provide the care,” said Frank Paulsen, a colleague of Marshall’s.

Marshall’s co-workers said his death leaves a big void at the hospital. Dr. Marshall had at least a dozen surgeries to tend to this week alone.

Those operations have now been postponed as VA employees grieve for one of their own.

“He was a good man, a good father, and we’re just sad today,” Paulsen said.

Dr. Marshall’s death comes as Spokane’s VA hospital continues to be short-staffed. To make sure all of Dr. Marshall’s patients are seen in a timely manner, VA employees said other hospitals have offered to pick up the slack.

For patients who are especially critical, VA is considering bringing in outside help, including borrowing surgeons from other VA hospitals in the northwest.

Those surgeons would be rotated in and out until a permanent replacement is found. Even then though, Dr. Marshall’s co-workers said his absence will be felt for a very long time.

“Walking around with staff today, it’s amazing how many people he touched.”

Officials said all of Wednesday’s surgeries at the VA have been postponed, so Dr. Marshall’s co-workers can continue to grieve. Surgeries will begin again on Thursday.