The embattled Atlanta VA Medical Center has a new permanent director for the first time since 2011. Former VA Deputy Assistant Secretary for Labor-Management Relations, Leslie Wiggins, has been appointed to head the center. The new leadership comes after an internal audit linking three patient deaths in the past two years to mismanagement in the center’s mental health programs and a visit by federal lawmakers.
On her first Day, Wiggins says she’s shocked and concerned after reading audit reports that go into detail about two patients who committed suicide after seeking help from the center and another who died of a drug overdose.
“That’s a very tragic thing when that happens and it saddens me and so what I plan to do is make sure we shore up all the systems and processes in this organization and hopefully we won’t have such tragedies.”
As a result of the deaths, Wiggins says she plans to do a top to bottom assessment of the Center’s mental health programs. But until she’s done a thorough review of the audit reports, Wiggins says it’s premature to decide exactly what needs to change and whether anyone in the Center’s senior leadership should lose their jobs.
“I’m not a person who proceeds quickly without.”
But Wiggins did say everything about veterans’ care including documentation, follow-up and tracking will be done well.
“Strong consistent leadership. That’s what my number one goal is.”
But employee union leaders are not convinced things will improve. Elijah Williams is local president of American Federation of Government Employees.
“We have to see action.”
Williams says the organization is too top heavy and more employees at the lower levels are needed to handle patient volume.