PITTSBURGH (AP) – The Department of Veterans Affairs on Friday recommended firing the director of the Pittsburgh VA Healthcare System for unspecified “conduct unbecoming a senior executive.”
That director, Terry Gerigk Wolf, has been on paid leave since June after a VA review of a Legionnaire’s disease outbreak between February 2011 and November 2012. At least six Pittsburgh VA patients died and 16 were sickened by the bacterial disease that was traced to water treatment problems at the Pittsburgh-area hospitals, which also prompted Congressional hearings.
Pittsburgh VA spokesman Mark Ray said it would be “inappropriate” for the local system to comment on the departmental recommendation.
“The proposed removal of the director underscores VA’s commitment to hold leaders accountable and get veterans the care they need,” the VA said in a statement.
The department said the removal action stems from an investigation by its Office of Accountability Review which “substantiated” the unspecified allegations against Wolf, who could not immediately be located for comment.
The review is part of new regulations the department has enacted in the wake of a nationwide scandal over veterans waiting too long for medical care or being kept on secret waiting lists so that regional VA directors and others wouldn’t be penalized if certain care access deadlines weren’t met. Eric Shinseki resigned as VA Secretary over the scandal in May.
Under the new accountability standards, Wolf can respond to the department’s allegations in writing before Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald makes a final decision on Wolf’s fate.
The Pittsburgh VA’s chief medical officer, David MacPherson, has been named interim director in Pittsburgh.
Just last week, a Pittsburgh Veterans Affairs hospital reported a new case of Legionnaire’s disease.
A patient with pneumonia tested positive at the University Drive hospital’s emergency room. The VA says the unidentified man also received outpatient treatment at that location within two weeks of falling ill, which is the incubation period to be sickened by legionella bacteria.
Initial water tests at the hospital were negative, so retesting was ordered. The VA has also offered to test the facility where the veteran lives.
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