Manchester VA Medical Center: Floods, care issues & whistleblowers

manchester va medical center

The Manchester Veterans Affairs Medical Center, the VA’s only veteran care facility in New Hampshire, had its top two officials removed recently with allegations of negligence and mismanagement. (VA photo)

By Jonathan Kaupanger

The hits keep coming for the distressed VA Medical Center in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Days after the top two leaders of New Hampshire’s only VA medical hospital were removed, the center dealt with a devastating pipe failure causing flooded floors, waterlogged walls and damaged equipment.

“We have had significant catastrophic flooding in the medical center, going from the third floor up to the sixth floor and into the mechanical space,” said Alfred Montoya, acting director of the Manchester VA Medical Center.

He went on to say that the women’s health, audiology and optometry clinics all suffered water damage.

pipe Manchester VA Medical Center: Floods, care issues & whistleblowers

The damaged pipe from Manchester VA Medical Center recent flood which caused about 250 appointments to be canceled. (VA photo)

Many appointments had to be rescheduled but primary care, mental health, integrated clinic and urgent care clinics were all operational. The 40 veterans living in the Community Living Center were not affected by the flood.

Montoya said it would take two to four weeks to bring all damaged spaces back online. In the meantime, two mobile buildings are being used as a temporary space for patients, and officials were arranging for a larger mobile unit that will be a stand-alone examining room.

Montoya was brought in as acting director after VA Secretary David Shulkin removed the hospital’s director and chief of staff after a recent newspaper article exposed allegations of negligence and mismanagement. Yet Montoya brings along his own baggage from the VA Medical Center in White River Junction, Vermont.

A report from VA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG), released just three weeks ago, gives an evaluation of the medical center in Vermont where Montoya has been the director since June 2016. The report contains 23 issues of patient care stemming from a review in December 2016.

The OIG identified system weaknesses in the quality, safety and value program; anti-coagulation policies and processes; transfer documentation; moderate sedation care; community nursing home oversight; and management of disruptive and violent behavior.

As stated in the OIG report, the inspectors could not “gain reasonable assurance” that the Vermont facility leadership was involved in high-level oversight and decision making by the Quality Management Board.

Shulkin isn’t escaping the Manchester drama unscathed either. In a VA press release dated July 16 – the secretary:

“These are serious allegations and we want our veterans and our staff to have confidence in the care we’re providing. I have been clear about the importance of transparency, accountability and rapidly fixing any and all problems brought to our attention, and we will do so immediately with these allegations.”

Since then, Shulkin said that he didn’t know about the allegations until July 16. However, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Rep. Ann McLane Kuster say they both shared the information with him long before that.

Shaheen copied Shulkin on a letter to the now-removed hospital director back in September 2016, when he was still the Undersecretary of Health. Kuster said she met with Shulkin in March and May of this year and told him about the concerns that had been brought to her attention.

Eleven whistleblowers from the Manchester VA Medical Center, including the retiring chief of medicine, former chiefs of surgery and radiology, started sounding alarms about patient care last year. The U.S. Office of the Special Counsel has already found a substantial likelihood of abuse of authority, legal violations, gross mismanagement and a danger to public health.

Connect: @JonathanVets1 | Jonathan@ConnectingVets.com

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