VA places three Phoenix executives on leave over ‘secret waiting list’

The Department of Veterans Affairs has placed three executives on administrative leave amid allegations that a Phoenix VA hospital tried to cover up long delays in service for dozens of patients who died while waiting for care.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said in a statement Thursday that the department was placing the medical center’s director, Sharon Helman, as well as its associate director, Lance Robinson, and a third unidentified employee on leave “until further notice.”


Vietnam veteran Chuck Tharp, foreground, listens as Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), second from left, and Jeff Flake, left (R-Ariz.) finish up a news conference to discuss recent reports about the Phoenix VA hospital. (Ross D. Franklin/AP)

“We believe it is important to allow an independent, objective review to proceed,” Shinseki said. “These allegations, if true, are absolutely unacceptable, and if the Inspector General’s investigation substantiates these claims, swift and appropriate action will be taken.”

Whistleblowers have said the Phoenix hospital created a “secret waiting list” to hide delays in treatment. But Helman and the hospital’s chief of staff have denied any knowledge of the alleged scheme or any deaths caused by delays.

Robert Petzel, head of the VA’s health services, told a Senate committee Wednesday that a preliminary review of the Phoenix matter found nothing to support the allegations of wrongdoing there.

“To date, we have found no evidence of a secret list, and we have found no patients who have died because they have been on a wait list,” Petzel said.

The Associated Press reported the leave actions in an article Thursday. That same day, the Arizona Republic reported that a VA doctor claims that the Phoenix hospital tried to destroy records of falsified wait times as recently as Sunday.

Follow Josh Hicks on TwitterFacebook or Google+. Connect by e-mail at  josh.hicks(at)washpost.comVisit The Federal Eye, and The Fed Page for more federal news. Submit news tips and suggestions to federalworker@washpost.com.

Josh Hicks covers Maryland politics and government. He previously anchored the Post’s Federal Eye blog, focusing on federal accountability and workforce issues.

politics

federal-eye

Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Comments
Show Comments
Most Read Politics

politics

federal-eye

Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Next Story
Josh Hicks · May 2, 2014