• Phoenix VA Hospital Leaders Kick Out Investigative Task Force

    According to internal documents, Phoenix VA hospital director Glen Grippen told an investigative team sent by departmental headquarters to leave facility premises and said that he “decides what’s going to happen around here.”

    Department of Veterans Affairs headquarters sent the team out to Phoenix in order to initiate reforms at the controversial facility, following revelations of the manipulated waitlist scandal in early 2014. The team quickly learned that the hospital was not only entirely uninterested, but actively sought to interfere with the investigation and ignore any proposals from the team, The Arizona Republic reports.

    The Human Resources Restoration and Revitalization task force shipped out to Phoenix last year with the hopes of fixing the litany of problems at the facility– issues that have surfaced in the media repeatedly. Some of those problems include serious understaffing caused by a broken personnel system, veterans waiting for incessantly-delayed appointments and a toxic work environment.

    In particular, the HR department was entirely understaffed by roughly 30 percent. The remaining employees were using outdated records systems.

    A report completed in late 2014 said that with the team’s help, the facility achieved “significant improvements,” though there “appeared to be obstruction and defiance of processes and changes that were implemented.” For example, HR refused to move from paper to computer systems, and when new systems were introduced, employees would flat-out refuse to adapt.

    As soon as the team had left the facility, all the work they had accomplished was undone in about two months. The VA rushed the team back to Phoenix in February 2015 to repair a rapidly disintegrating system. But by March, every single attempt to fix the personnel system was blocked by hospital management. The assistant director said there was really no rush.

    The reason? According to the team, the assistant director said he was much more concerned with “the visit of the president and (the VA’s deputy secretary) later that week.”

    About four days after President Barack Obama had come and gone in March, Grippen grew more aggressive and told the team that he “calls the shots.”

    “We were then accused of not trying to help and being resistant,” the HR team report noted, “and shortly thereafter the medical center director went to the door and said the conversation was over.”

    Phoenix has recently been thrown into disrepute again over a $50 million lawsuit filed by an Army veteran who alleges that his incurable cancer is a direct result of the VA’s negligent care and delayed diagnosis. Army veteran Steven Cooper, 44, said he fought for months to get an appointment. That appointment was repeatedly denied until he was finally seen in December 2012— a year after he had started trying to see a doctor. By then, the cancer was deemed incurable.

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