U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., condemned Friday the deaths of three cancer patients at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta, saying that the lack of care for more than 5,000 veterans in the hospital’s botched gastrointestinal program is a “tragedy in need of thorough investigation.”
Isakson, a member of Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, said his staff has begun coordinating efforts with Rep. John Barrow, D-Ga., to have a congressional hearing at the Charlie Norwood VA and hold accountable the personnel responsible for the clinic’s missteps.
“The number of people who were either misdiagnosed, not diagnosed or improperly processed is just alarming,” Isakson said in a telephone interview. “We need to get to the bottom of it and make sure it’s addressed.”
Richard Carbo, Barrow’s press secretary, said this week that the Augusta congressman has not nailed down a date for the hearing but is working with Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., the chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, to schedule a visit to Augusta.
“Rep. Barrow spoke with him again last week where he committed, again, to come down,” Carbo said of the talks with Miller. “In all likelihood, it’ll be at the first of the year.”
Isakson said he has contacted Miller about a House investigation into the administration of Rebecca Wiley for its possible connection to the program’s downfall.
The board has requested a copy of all performance reviews, pay bonuses and disciplinary actions Wiley and her staff received as far back as 2007, the year Wiley came to Augusta.
Congress investigated Wiley’s administration three years ago for its role in exposing more than 10,000 veterans to improperly cleaned gastrointestinal equipment.
Isakson said he was somewhat surprised Wiley was reassigned in 2011 to become the director of the Williams Jennings Bryan Dorn VA Medical Center in Columbia, where six deaths also were recently reported in its GI program.
The VA has confirmed Wiley retired earlier this year. She lives in North Augusta with her husband.
“I make it a top priority to do regular oversight of the entire VA delivery system to see that the veterans who sacrificed for our country get the benefits and treatment they need,” Isakson said. “They deserve the very best possible care we can give them.”