Senator Rockefeller says problems at Beckley veterans hospital ignored

Charleston Daily Mail (West Virginia)

BECKLEY, West Virginia — Senator Jay Rockefeller has asked Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson to investigate complaints of chronic staffing shortages and low morale at the Beckley VA Medical Center.

Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said he has received numerous complaints about the hospital. He said the hospital’s administration has ignored the problems.

“I have complained about it for a long time,” said Rockefeller, “but the secretary was given false information about Beckley, by Beckley, about the shortages, and therefore they were satisfied there wasn’t a problem, so nothing happened.”

There currently are nine physician vacancies and ten other provider vacancies, hospital officials said.

Many nurses and doctors in the VA health care system will not fill open positions at the Beckley hospital because it has a negative reputation, said Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

“I can’t put it any more bluntly than that. I’m sure it will be denied by them, but it’s the truth,” he said.

Jerry Husson, director of the Beckley hospital, defended the quality of care provided by the hospital. He said staffing shortages are not a problem.

“Did the physicians have a hard time for a while? Certainly. When they were down they were pulling some extra duties,” he said. “At one time people just opted to go. Every one of them that left said to me that they were either going for personal reasons or they were leaving for family reasons.”

Dr. Andrew Thymius, who worked at the hospital until May 2005, said the facility could not meet the demand for services. He said patients had to wait months for appointments.

“It’s cruel to make them wait that long. They run on HMO mentality. So if you see the patient face to face, it tends to be not what they want. They want more indirect patient care than direct,” Thymius said.

The federal government mandated an onsite training program, “Civility and Respect in the Workplace,” at the hospital after a national VA employee survey last year indicated low morale at the facility.

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