DC VA gets new director amid abysmal performance

Matt Saintsing
October 15, 2018 - 1:24 pm

Photo Courtesy of Washington DC VA Medical Center

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The distressed Washington D.C. VA Medical Center has a new director as of Monday, the fifth person to serve in the role in 18 months. 

Michael Heimall, a former Army officer, was sworn in Monday as the head of the medical clinic. He takes over at a time when leadership has been absent at the facility, amid blistering reports of the facility’s lackluster performance. 

“Michael’s proven experience is what we need to continue to stabilize and make further improvements at the medical center,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said in a statement. “I believe our employees, volunteers, and veterans will greatly benefit from his strong leadership.” 

A VA inspector general report in March found searing deficiencies including a lack of clean storage for medical equipment, a glaring leadership void, and more than open or pending 10,000 prosthetic and sensory aid consults leading some veterans to wait months for needed devices. And in July, the center was placed under administrative review and classified “critical” with the biggest insufficiencies being in employee satisfaction, patient access, and mental health. 

The previous director, Brian Hawkins, was fired last year after an internal investigation found veterans faced excessive risks due to shortages of medical supplies. 

Monday marks  Heimall’s first day on the job, and staff at the beleaguered center is excited about having a definable vision as they work to improve care. 

“We are definitely looking forward to stability in leadership, we are looking forward to direction, and having some clear-cut goals and initiatives to work towards,” says Gloria Hairston, a spokeswoman for the Washington, D.C VA Medical Center. “Mr. Heimall brings with him leadership with a military background, so he’s familiar with those who we provide care to.” 

He served as the director of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, in Bethesda, Md., from 2015 to 2017. 

The Washington hospital made its way onto a list of VA’s worst VA facilities graded on performance rated just one-star, the lowest possible rating. 

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