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Positions tied to Augusta VA investigation under interim leadership

Monday, June 9, 2014 7:42 PM
Last updated 10:18 PM
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The Charlie Norwood Veterans Affairs Medical Center’s chief of staff, Dr. Michael Spencer, and associate director, Richard “Toby” Rose, have voluntarily resigned from their positions for “personal reasons,” the Augusta hospital announced.

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John Stenger  Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center
Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center
John Stenger

Hospital spokesman Pete Scovill said in an e-mail that Spencer is now Augusta’s acting associate chief of staff for education and affiliations and that Rose has moved to South Carolina to work at the Charleston VA Medical Center.

Scovill also said the Department of Veterans Affairs has temporarily reassigned Dr. Felipe Diaz, the former chief of staff at the Bath VA Medical Center in western New York, to replace Spencer and that Augusta’s assistant director, John Stenger, was promoted to serve in Rose’s place until permanent appointments are made for each position.

Scovill would not elaborate on why Spencer and Rose stepped down, but said their positions will be advertised and filled through the “appropriate hiring protocols for the Veterans Administration.”

Scovill said Diaz brings both “tremendous experience and a keen analytical approach” to an Augusta chief of staff position that’s under investigation by the House Committee on Veterans Affairs for failing to report scheduling problems in the hospital’s gastrointestinal program that led to three veterans dying and 4,500 others having endoscopies delayed in 2011 and 2012.

The committee began investigating the hospital’s director last September. It turned its attention to the last two chiefs of staff in January after Spencer, 55, told the board’s chairman during a congressional oversight visit that he had notified supervisors of issues about 10 years ago, but no actions were taken.

In light of the information, which was revealed in a letter sent this year to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., requested a copy of e-mails and reposts Spencer kept to document the problems and all minutes from meetings dating back to 2006 involving him, Rose and former chief of staff, Dr. Luke Stapleton.

Before becoming chief of staff in 2012, Spencer served as the head of primary care, the department in which the hospital’s delay of 5,100 gastrointestinal consultations reportedly began. He replaced Stapleton, 61, who after three years as chief of staff, voluntarily resigned from the position under threat of discipline in March 2013, but remains a paid employee at the medical center, earning $240,000 as the head physician of the hospital’s hematology and oncology section, according to VA records.

Rose, formerly of the VA medical center in Manchester, N.H., was named associate director in December 2010.

Scovill said Diaz earned his medical degree from the New York Medical College in 1986 and his masters of science health administration in 2009 from Roberts Wesleyan College in Rochester, N.Y. Before joining the Bath VA Medical Center as chief of staff in December 2009, he was the chief medical officer at the Syracuse Community Health Center.

Diaz has served as the Associate Medical Director for Total Care, Inc., and as a hospitalist at Community General Hospital and St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse, N.Y.

Stenger was appointed assistant medical center director at Charlie Norwood on July 29, 2012. Before that, he was director of the VA’s health care engineering program in Washington, DC.

Scovill said Stenger has more than a decade of field experience in engineering and facilities management, including at VA medical facilities in Miami, Tampa, Fla., Hines, Ill. and Hampton, Va.

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thauch12 06/10/14 - 10:31 am
Yellow Journalism

This whole series on the VA has all kinds of unsavory reporting, but I don't understand the significance of publishing Dr. Scovill's salary. $240,000 is nothing out of the ordinary for a hematologist (in fact, it's on the low end of the pay scale). It's as if the author of the article is trying to manufacture outrage by any means necessary...

Sweet son
Sweet son 06/10/14 - 01:03 pm
These 'voluntary resignations' were far from voluntary.

These guys were at least allowed to stay around and finish their pension work but they are just sacrificial lambs. These reassignments won't fix a system that is not fixable.

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