The former head of the main hospital for veterans in the nation’s capital has been fired from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs after an investigation found that he sent confidential information about the running of the troubled hospital to his wife’s personal email account.
The departure of Brian Hawkins, who was removed from the post of director of the VA Medical Center in Washington in April, capped months of scrutiny by the inspector general for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. A probe revealed a hospital where patients were endangered by rampant organizational and managerial dysfunction.
In a statement, the VA said that Hawkins was fired Friday “because he failed to provide effective leadership at the medical center.” His ouster was first reported by WRC-TV (Channel 4).
“This action underscores VA’s commitment to holding all employees accountable if they fail to do their jobs or live up to VA’s values,” the agency’s statement said.
Hawkins was assigned to a different position within the agency in April, when Inspector General Michael J. Missal released an initial report detailing what he described as “the highest levels of chaos” at the hospital. Retired Army Col. Lawrence Connell was named acting director of the hospital and remains in that role.
In April, Missal found that roughly $150 million in medical supplies were not inventoried, leading to conditions in which sterile surgical items were kept in dirty areas and nurses were forced to spontaneously rifle through hospital rooms for emergency equipment, such as oxygen tubes.
The inspector general said he was taking the unusual step of making some of his findings public before the investigation was complete because of the immediate risk to patients.
The new report, which was shared with VA officials by the inspector general’s office in June and made public Tuesday, found that Hawkins shared “sensitive” information about VA employees and administrative decisions with his wife — who is not a VA employee — via email.
Those communications violated the agency’s policies on the confidentiality of such information, according to the report.
The inspector general could not substantiate separate allegations that Hawkins had “attempted to impede” a probe into employee bonuses that were allegedly given “without proper justification” at his authorization.
However, the report describes extreme delays by Hawkins’s staff in responding to requests for documentary evidence during the investigation into the bonuses.