Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin announced that he pushed out three regional directors and consolidated those positions into one mega-regional director, USA Today reported.

Shulkin pushed out three regional directors who oversaw 23 hospitals that served nearly 3 million veterans.

Shulkin forced two regional directors to retire: Dr. Michael Mayo-Smith, who oversaw New England’s VA medical centers, and Marie Weldon, director of VA hospitals in the southwestern United States.

Shulkin also reassigned Joseph Williams, the regional director for VA hospitals in West Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, DC.

Shulkin eliminated the three positions and appointed Bryan Gamble, a former private-sector health care executive who has been working at the Orlando VA medical center, to oversee all three of the regions.

These actions were taken after an inspector general report that was published on Wednesday that found local, regional, and national VA officials knew for years about severe mismanagement, specifically at the DC VA, but didn’t fix the issues.

In addition, Shulkin also made these additional actions to help the Washington, DC VA Medical Center:

  • Created the Incident Command Center – providing oversight over shortages and a 24-hour hotline for urgent medical supplies.
  • Awarded a contract to construct an $8.9 million sterile processing service to be completed by March 2019.
  • Eliminated all pending prosthetics consults greater than 30 days.
  • Transitioned inventory to automatic replenishment levels.
  • Secured off-site, warehouse with restricted access.
  • Filled 36 logistic and sterile processing service vacancies.

Dr. Michael Mayo-Smith, regional director for the New England region, retired days after U.S. Reps. Annie Kuster (D-NH) and Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH) called on him to resign. The Boston Globe’s Spotlight Team last year documented systemic breakdowns at the VA medical center in Manchester, New Hampshire. That story led to the ouster of four top officials, including the hospital’s director.

Earlier this year, a special counsel contacted President Donald Trump, requesting that the president terminate a Bedford, Massachusetts VA employee who was caught pocketing $950,000 to herself in 2015.

“It is time for this organization to do business differently,” Shulkin said at a news conference in Washington. “These are urgent issues, and many of these issues are unacceptable.”

Gamble is tasked with drafting a plan to reorganize VA regional governance as a whole and submitting a plan by July 1, 2018.

Since the 1990s, the agency hospitals have been divided into regions, each with its own director. Currently there are 21 such regions. Those directors then report to national headquarters.

 

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