Report finds veterans being put at 'unnecessary risk' at DC's VA medical center

A new report by the VA inspector general that says the Washington DC Veterans Affairs Medical Center has several alarming problems and is placing patients at unnecessary risk has led to the removal of its medical director from his position.

The VA Office of the Inspector General's Rapid Response team came to the medical center on March 29 to begin its investigation and also returned for another visit last week.

According to the preliminary report released on Wednesday, it was found the medical center ran out of supplies needed for patient procedures and had to borrow them from a private hospital.

The team also found no effective inventory system to manage supplies and medical equipment used for patients. More than $150 million of equipment had reportedly not been inventoried in the last year and were unaccounted for.

The report also says 18 of the 25 sterile satellite storage areas for supplies were dirty and there was no system in place to ensure recalled products were not used on patients.

The inspector general report says in part, "Although our work is continuing, we believed it important to publish this Interim Summary Report given the exigent nature of the issues we have preliminarily identified and the lack of confidence in VHA to adequately and timely fix the root causes of these issues. At least some of these issues have been known to the Veterans Health Administration senior management for some time without effective remediation."

The VA said effective immediately, the director of the medical center, Brian Hawkins, has been relieved from his position. The VA said in a news release:

"The Department of Veterans Affairs reported earlier today that Dr. Charles Faselis has been named the acting Medical Center Director for the D.C. VA Medical Center.

"In naming Dr. Faselis as the acting director, VA was following a common line of succession.

"After further consideration, it was determined that naming an acting director from outside the facility would allow leadership to concentrate on addressing the many challenges identified in the OIG report, without compromising the ongoing internal review.

"Col. Lawrence Connell U. S. Army (Ret) has been named the Acting Medical Center Director for the D.C. VA Medical Center. Mr. Connell is currently serving as a Senior Advisor on policy matters focusing on development, adoption, and implementation of Department-wide programs and strategic issues.

"He served more than 30 years as an Army medical service officer including 15 years as a MEDEVAC Pilot as well as Chief Operating Officer, Pacific Regional Medical Command, Honolulu, Hawaii; Chief Executive Officer of Stuttgart (Germany) U.S. Army Medical Health Clinic; Commander of the 43rd Area Support Medical Battalion; and other medical-related staff positions.

"He holds a Master of Science in International Relations from Troy State University and Bachelor of Science from the University of Rhode Island."

Also on Wednesday, the VA unveiled a new website aimed at providing quality of care information at VA medical centers and will allow veterans to access average waiting times for services in their area.

"Veterans must have access to information that is clear and understandable to make informed decisions about their health care," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. David J. Shulkin. "No other health-care system in the country releases this type of information on wait times. This allows Veterans to see how VA is performing."