VA Secretary Turfs Manchester Medical Center Director After Abysmal Report

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque.

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin removed the director and chief of staff at the Manchester VA medical center after a report lambasted the facility for poor care.

Shulkin announced his decision Sunday after the Boston Globe published an extensive investigation Saturday into the Manchester medical center in New Hampshire. The report revealed surgeries had to be canceled because of rusty and bloody surgical tools, an operating room had to be abandoned due to flies and the appointment software for sending thousands of veterans outside the facility had broken down.

“These are serious allegations, and we want our Veterans and our staff to have confidence in the care we’re providing,” Shulkin said in a statement. “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.”

According to the investigation, when patients finally managed to be sent out of the facility, numerous physicians remarked at how poorly they had been treated.

“Only in 3rd World countries is it common to see patients end up as disabled from myelopathy as the ones who have been showing up after referral from you,” said Dr. Chima Ohaegbulam, of New England Baptist Hospital, to a Manchester VA physician in 2014.

Many doctors inside the Manchester VA say they have zero control over how things at the facility are run and are often not given the tools needed to do their jobs.

“I have never seen a hospital run this poorly — every day it gets worse and worse,” chief of medicine Dr. Stewart Levenson told the Boston Globe. “I never thought I would be exposing the system like this. But I went through the system and got nowhere.”

And yet, despite the abysmal conditions, the Manchester VA was upgraded from three stars to four in 2016.

Immediately on Monday, the VA Office of the Medical Inspector and the VA Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection are moving in to conduct an extensive review of the facility to examine all topics brought up in the Boston Globe piece.

In the interim, Alfred Montoya, director of the White River Junction medical center, will take over as director. The VA has not yet announced a new chief of staff.

“I’m very encouraged by their willingness to take immediate action, to be transparent with it,” New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu told the New Hampshire Union Leader.

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