Lawmaker upset over no firings in Atlanta VA investigation

by: Aaron Diamant Updated:

Loading

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - A local lawmaker tells Channel 2 Action News he is livid no hospital leaders have been fired after a series of Channel 2 investigations exposed federal reports that linked mismanagement to patient deaths at the Atlanta Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Channel 2's Aaron Diamant obtained a letter from Rep. Phil Gingrey that the representative sent to the Atlanta VA's brand new boss Thursday.

The letter demands details of all the steps she and other hospital leaders have taken so far to fix all the problems federal inspectors found and that those at fault need to go, fast.

"Unbelievable," Gingrey told Diamant. "People need to be fired over this."

Last month, Channel 2 Action News first exposed scathing federal inspection reports that linked mismanagement by hospital leaders to the deaths of three mental health patients.

"I commend WSB and your investigative reporting," Gingrey said.

But when a team of powerful Washington lawmakers came to Atlanta earlier this month to get specifics, the executive staff didn't tell them about a troubling fourth suicide, later uncovered by Channel 2 Action News.

Joseph Petit's death inside the hospital last September went unnoticed for 24 hours.

"How do you forget a death, particularly in circumstances in which this veteran died? You don't, you can't, there's no way," Gingrey said.

In a letter to lawmakers last week, the VA's undersecretary for health wrote, the department "fully investigated the care of the Veterans cited in the news report and has either taken follow-up action or action was in process to resolve the identified the deficiencies prior to the OIG (Office of the Inspector General) hotline investigations."

But Gingrey is furious the letter said nothing about the fourth suicide or whether hospital leaders took any action afterwards, and he promised even more pressure.

"When you smell a rat, you keep looking. I hope that's the last one, but I don't think we need, at this point, to quit looking," Gingrey said.

A spokesman for the Atlanta VA's new boss, Leslie Wiggins, said the director was too busy for an interview Thursday but sent a statement from Wiggins, saying, "I am looking forward to a future meeting with Congressman Gingrey to address all of his concerns."