MANCHESTER, NH – U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs David J. Shulkin, M.D., announced on July 16 “actions” the department is taking immediately to respond to whistleblower concerns at the Manchester VA Medical Center (VAMC) detailed in an investigative article in today’s Boston Globe.
Those actions include the firing of two top VA officials – Medical Center Director Danielle Ocker will be replaced by Alfred Montoya, current director of the VA Medical Center in White River Junction, Vermont. A replacement for the Manchester VA’s Chief of Staff James Schlosser has not yet been announced.
In the story, published July 16 by the Globe’s Spotlight team, troubling information was uncovered about the condition of the hospital – an operating room closed due to proliferation of flies – and several complaints by staff members acting as whistleblowers, about conditions at the four-star rated hospital, that led to the investigation by the Globe:
“Ratings can deceive. Inside the unassuming red-brick walls of the Manchester medical center is ground zero for an extraordinary rebellion led by doctors who say they have almost no say in how the hospital is run, lack tools to do their jobs, and witness chronic shortcomings in patient care. They say the four top administrators, only one of them a doctor, seem more concerned with performance ratings than in properly treating the roughly 25,000 veterans who go to Manchester for outpatient care and day surgery each year.”
You can access the full story here on the Globe website (limited access without subscription).
By midday Sunday, Shulkin had issued a statement that his office is taking immediate action to follow-up the Globe report:
The VA Office of the Medical Inspector and the VA Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection are being sent in beginning Monday to conduct a top-to-bottom review of the Manchester VAMC, including all allegations in the article.
In addition, effective immediately, the department has removed the director and chief of staff at the facility, pending the outcome of the review.
Alfred Montoya, the director of the VAMC in White River Junction, Vermont, will serve as the new director of the Manchester VAMC and the new chief of staff will be announced shortly.
Dr. Shulkin said, “These are serious allegations, and we want our Veterans and our staff to have confidence in the care we’re providing. I have been clear about the importance of transparency, accountability and rapidly fixing any and all problems brought to our attention, and we will do so immediately with these allegations.”
NH Gov. Chris Sununu also responded Sunday to the Globe allegations, with the following statement:
“This morning I spoke with Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. David Shulkin, and am encouraged by his willingness to address these troublesome allegations quickly, without hesitation, and with an insistence on transparency. Despite previous administrations who swept issues under the rug, Secretary Shulkin has proven that he is willing to take immediate action so that we can restore confidence in the system. We will stop at nothing short of delivering the best care for our veterans.”