Former VA director answers questions over patient deaths

by: Aaron Diamant Updated:


ATLANTA - In April, a VA Inspector General reports blamed Atlanta VA Medical Center leader mismanagement for three mental health patients' deaths, poor patient monitoring and weak oversight of outpatient programs.

On Wednesday Channel 2's Aaron Diamant went to former director James Clark's home and asked what happened during the final months of his 30-year career.

Clark retired during the investigation last December.

"Well, I'm sorry," said Clark. "I'm very sorry that they lost loved ones just as I've lost loved ones. It's difficult and I'm very sorry, my apologies for any breakdowns in any of the systems that were in place."

Clark was asked to explain the breakdowns in the investigator's report.

"I haven't even seen it," Clark said. "I left before the Inspector General's report came out, so I'm very ignorant when it comes to the information that was in the IG report."

Current local and national leaders from the Department of Veterans Affairs attended a field hearing this month.

"The failure of the VA system in those cases was deplorable to me," Sen. Johnny Isakson said during the hearing.

Clark was asked if he thought hospital leaders failed.

"If someone dies, we have failed at our jobs before their time is due," Clark said.

Clark said he hasn't read the reports because he's been attending to health and family matters.

The Atlanta VA's current leaders will face more Congressional scrutiny at a hearing next month.