The Department of Veterans Affairs announced Tuesday the appointment of two senior leaders as hospital directors, but one of the officials presided over a serious scandal in Cincinnati, and another has been implicated in whitewashing a veteran’s suicide in Phoenix.
“At VA, we are constantly seeking ways to improve, and these personnel moves make us better across the board,” said VA Under secretary for Health Dr. David J. Shulkin in a statement. “Each individual is a proven leader who will be a strong advocate for Veterans.”
John A. Gennaro is set to take over as director of the Erie VA medical center in Pennsylvania, moving from his current position as director of the Cincinnati VA medical center.
Gennaro only served at Cincinnati in his role as director for about nine months.
Additionally, although the VA said Gennaro “led the facility through numerous improvements,” his time at Cincinnati was overshadowed by a huge, ongoing scandal at the facility. In February, Shulkin removed Dr. Barbara Temeck, the acting chief of staff, from the facility for facilitating poor care and giving prescriptions to other officials, like Jack Hetrick, director of the regional service network in Cincinnati. Hetrick resigned before he could be fired.
The whole incident may result in a criminal investigation. Misconduct from Temeck and Hetrick isn’t the only problem at the facility. Cincinnati has been hit with other investigations for employee misconduct and issues with patient care.
Glenn Costie, who was just appointed as acting director in Cincinnati, has a similarly checkered past. The VA conveniently left out Costie’s background as acting director of the Phoenix VA health care system in the press release, only mentioning his previous work in Chicago, West Haven, Cleveland, Baltimore and Poplar Bluff.
At Phoenix, Costie majorly embarrassed the hospital and was caught up in a scandal, in which he apparently violated privacy regulations and whitewashed the suicide of a veteran.
In 2014, the VA launched an investigation into Costie for alleged privacy law violations. What happened is that Costie sent out an email to justify the Phoenix VA’s treatment of veteran Daniel Somers, who committed suicide in 2013.
At the time, a VA official said Costie was wrong to send the email.
“The Department regrets that the message in question was sent, and is reviewing it to determine if any privacy rules or regulations were broken,” VA spokesman Mark Ballesteros told The Arizona Republic. “The Department of Veterans Affairs offers its condolences to the Somers family for the loss of their son. Every Veteran suicide is a tragic outcome, and even one is one too many.”
Costie’s attempt to portray the VA in a good light at all costs provoked disgust from Somers’ parents, Howard and Jean, who had no idea Costie was going to send a message about their son to the hospital.
“He should be embarrassed to attempt to defend the VA’s lack of care to Daniel that drove him outside the VA for treatment,” Howard and Jean Somers told The Arizona Republic. “It’s also hard to believe that he actually referred to Daniel’s personal medical records. It’s very sad and so discouraging.”
In the email, Costie went through and detailed Somers’ health records, saying he discovered “no unusual variations in care,” although Somers complained to his family repeatedly about how difficult it was to get the care he needed at the facility. When the hospital didn’t have a bed for him, he would just lay on the floor and drive home later after the pain would subside.
“This announcement only raises more questions regarding VA’s handling of the scandal at the Cincinnati VA Medical Center,” GOP Rep. [crscore]Jeff Miller[/crscore], chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, said in a statement. “Chiefly, why is the Cincinnati VAMC director departing after less than a year on the job and why is the facility’s chief of staff still employed even though a VA investigation found she engaged in serious misconduct by providing improper medical care and prescriptions to members of another VA employee’s family?”
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