MARION — U.S. Rep. Mike Bost of Murphysboro on Monday called on U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin to investigate allegations of mismanagement at the Marion VA Medical Center that may have compromised quality of care and patient safety, according to news release from Bost’s office.
In a letter sent to Shulkin, Bost, a Republican who is a member of the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, along with that committee's chairman, Jack Bergman, R-Michigan, said a memorandum dated May 31, 2017, written by the VA National Center for Patient Safety program manager, stated the Marion VA experienced significant declines in patient safety culture metrics and employee morale since those areas were last assessed in 2014.
“Specifically, the memo describes a 2015 visit by NCPS to investigate employee complaints pertaining to worsening organizational and patient safety culture at the facility. Employees also alleged that senior leadership retaliated against them for reporting such problems. VA internal documents demonstrate a strong need for the Central Office to investigate and take action to address the safety concerns," the members wrote.
In the memo, NCPS recommended that appropriate Veterans Integrated Service Networks personnel intervene to ensure that the Marion VA employees’ complaints were fully investigated, but according to the letter from Bost and Bergman, this does not appear to have happened.
With regard to questions about organizational culture at the VA, the memo cites instances in which reports from medical center employees to leadership regarding patient safety and concerns “have either disappeared or were not appropriately submitted to [the] new Director by leadership staff.”
Bost and Bergman are requesting answers as to who in the administration was responsible for the reports, why they were not submitted, and why the VISN director has failed to address the complaints and concerns that have been communicated over the years.
Additionally, Bost and Bergman seek an assessment of the Administrative Investigation Board’s process’ effectiveness and a copy of that assessment and recommendations.
Questions about the culture of safety at the Marion VA involve concerns about the VA Community Living Center, reports of retaliation, unprofessional conduct and bullying toward employees by Marion leadership and nepotism and lack of transparency.
The NCPS memo includes an employee complaint stating that since October 2016, 15 veterans who were at the CLC for rehab have died during or shortly after discharge from the CLC.
Bost and Bergman seek confirmation of the accuracy of the number of deaths, a review of all deaths in the CLC and reported deaths after discharge from the CLC from October 2016 to present, as well as the results of that review.
Additionally, they seek an investigation of the reports of retaliation, unprofessional conduct, and bullying toward employees by Marion leadership, a report on those findings, and copies of any and all internal and external employee surveys conducted within the last three years.
The NCPS memo also alleges that the chief of logistics for the Marion VA, Mel Gutierrez, inappropriately appointed his wife to be the administrative officer for the surgery department at the Marion VA, and fails to hold his staff accountable for inappropriate behavior and exhibits an alarming lack of transparency.
Bost and Bergman are also calling for a review of the circumstances of Gutierrez’s wife’s hiring and promotion to surgery department administrative officer.
A Sept. 1, 2017, deadline for answers to these questions and the appropriate supporting documentation has been requested.
A spokesperson for the Marion VA was working on a response to the allegations, but that response was not provided before press time on Monday.
A spokesperson for Marion VA Director Jo Ann Ginsburg said her office is working on a response to these allegations and should have a comment by the end of the day Monday. This story will be updated.