Veterans group seeks accountability from VA

Posted at 5:20 PM, Feb 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-26 17:20:38-05

CINCINNATI — A group of veterans called for more accountability in the wake of a Scripps News/WCPO investigation into the Cincinnati VA Medical Center.

Close to 100 veterans, calling themselves Concerned Veterans for America, gathered Friday at the Millennium Hotel in Downtown Cincinnati to demand better service for veterans.

“(The media) have been absolutely essential over the last few years in exposing the problems within the VA,” CVA Vice President of Political and Legislative Action Dan Caldwell said. “If it weren’t for them we would not know about a lot of the problems that have happened. The little change that has happened — and more importantly the momentum for change that we have — would not be there.”

Since October, a team of Scripps reporters has been talking to a group of 34 current and former medical center staff members.

Whistleblowers, including 18 doctors from several departments, sent an unsigned letter to Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald in September describing "urgent concerns about quality of care" at the facility, which serves more than 40,000 area veterans. The whistleblowers allege a pattern of cost cutting that forced out experienced surgeons, reduced access to care and put patients in harm's way.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has taken action against two senior officials in Cincinnati following a federal investigation into allegations of wrongdoing at Cincinnati’s VA Medical Center. The actions took place after VA officials received a preliminary report on the internal VA investigation.

Network Director Jack Hetrick submitted his retirement after VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson proposed his removal as the agency’s highest-ranking VA official in Ohio, Indiana and Michigan. Dr. Barbara Temeck, the hospital's acting chief of staff, was reassigned to nonpatient-care duties and her medical privileges were suspended by VA Undersecretary for Health, David Schulkin.

Dr. Temeck could face additional actions, according to a VA news release.

On Thursday, Cincinnati VA officials appointed Robert McDivitt as Acting Network Director for the region including Cincinnati. McDivitt takes Hetrick’s place.

McDivitt was the Medical Center director in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He has been an Acting Network Director twice in the past. He was also the Director of the VA Medical Center in Fargo, North Dakota from 2006 to 2009.

The VA also notified staff on Thursday that Dr. Ralph Panos is taking over as acting chief of staff for Dr. Temeck.

Panos has been the Cincinnati VA's chief of medicine.