New director on the way for Atlanta VA hospital

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DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - Channel 2 Action News has confirmed the Atlanta VA Medical Center's new director is on her way to Atlanta.

The move comes less than a month after Channel 2 Action News first reported on a series of federal reports that blame mismanagement by hospital leaders for patient deaths.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Aaron Diamant has learned the Atlanta VA has operated under an "acting" director for almost five months.

Since first uncovering those scathing federal reports and other problems, Diamant has spent weeks working to confirm when the new director would take over.

After a few very rough weeks for Atlanta VA Medical Center leaders, the Department of Veterans Affairs is sending in reinforcements.

Leslie Wiggins, the department's former deputy assistant undersecretary of labor management relations, will take over as the Atlanta VA director.

Hours before the VA officials would confirm the move, an automatic response to an email Diamant sent Wiggins Wednesday morning said, "I am currently in the process of relocating to Atlanta, Ga. to assume my new appointment as medical center Director of the Atlanta VAMC."

Once Diamant told department leaders about that, they finally confirmed she'll be in Atlanta next week and several sources inside the Atlanta VA told Diamant that Wiggins could start as soon as Monday morning.

A Channel 2 Action News investigation first uncovered federal reports blaming mismanagement by hospital leaders for several patient deaths, including two suicides.

Powerful federal lawmakers, who showed up at the hospital to get answers from the administrators earlier this month, called for their resignations when Diamant later exposed a third suicide inside the hospital was not disclosed.

"They have failed. They have failed in the biggest and most hurtful way," Rep. David Scott, R-Ga., told Diamant after touring the facility.

After Diamant told Scott about Wiggins arrival, he sent a statement saying, "I look forward to meeting with Leslie Wiggins to hear about her plan to right the ship at the Atlanta Medical Center. We need a full-time, committed leader to review these recent deaths and other critical errors."

The VA actually first announced Wiggins’ appointment in February. Two subsequent start dates passed with no explanation.

A few weeks ago, after we began reporting on all the problems inspectors found, a VA spokesperson in Washington, D.C. told Diamant there was no exact start date.

So far, the VA won't say whether our reporting or any of the congressional pressure sped up the process.


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