A month after admitting it botched its gastrointestinal program so badly that three cancer patients died and 5,100 other veterans had consultations delayed for two years, the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center is not home free yet.
The House Committee on Veterans Affairs continues to investigate the administration of the hospital’s former director, Rebecca Wiley, and its chairman, Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., will lead a congressional oversight visit at the Augusta facility Jan. 6 to hold those accountable for the missteps.
The efforts are aimed at restoring credibility at the hospital and quieting demands for justice from numerous national veterans advocacy groups – such as the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Uniformed Services Disabled Retirees.
The fallout began a week before Thanksgiving, when health care administrators at Charlie Norwood publicly apologized for the deaths and consultation backlog.
In hoping to restore order to the clinic, hospital leaders said they had brought in extra personnel; leased and purchased additional scopes; and even re-engineered the clinic’s floorplan to increase patient flow.
The large-scale effort, which was launched in August 2012 and completed three months later, helped the facility determine appropriate treatment plans for 4,560 patients and reduce its backlog to 540 unresolved consults, Director Bob Hamilton said in November.
However, Hamilton, who took over the hospital in July 2012, said that about 50 veterans continue to wait for an appointment. He has declined comment until Miller visits.
According to a 2012 report from the VA Inspector General’s Office, nearly 4,500 of the medical center’s unresolved GI consults might be connected to Wiley’s administration, which lasted from February 2007 to December 2010.
The House Committee on Veterans Affairs has requested a copy of all performance reviews, pay bonuses and disciplinary actions Wiley’s administration received as far back as 2007. The request remains unfulfilled by the VA, according to the committee.
Wiley, who retired in 2013 and lives in North Augusta, has declined repeated requests for an interview. Her husband, Richard Wall, said the former director has an attorney, but the family will not release the lawyer’s name or provide a statement through the representative’s office.