ATLANTA — Will a change at the top bring better care for veterans at Atlanta’s VA hospital?
As we reported on Channel 2 Action News at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, the executive director of the Atlanta VA Hospital is stepping down.
Channel 2 consumer investigator Justin Gray has learned that the Atlanta VA Medical Center only gets 2 out of 5 stars in the federal government’s quality of care ratings. Its new director is coming from a high-ranking, high-performing hospital.
The words “please help me” were found scrawled by a veteran on an emergency room bill that was among the thousands of pieces of mail left piled up for 10 months, unopened in an Atlanta VA basement in 2021.
It’s just one of the care crises Channel 2 Action News has reported on at the Atlanta VA under the leadership of Dr. Ann Brown.
Now, Brown is out, retiring effective Monday.
The question veterans are asking is will a change at the top mean a change in performance?
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Cherokee County veteran and veteran advocate Jim Lendemayer told Gray that he is skeptical.
“We have no guarantees that even with the new changes, that it’s going to be fixed. And if you look at all the errors that have gone on in this hospital, no one’s been fired. They let them retire, with full benefits. No one’s believed like you would see in the military,” Lendemayer said.
The new acting director of the Atlanta VA, Dan Ducker, currently leads the Tennessee Valley VA \Health system, which received 4 out of 5 stars.
Before that he ran the Fayetteville, North Carolina VA, which also scored 4 out of 5 stars for hospital quality.
There’s the hope that this person coming in would provide the right leadership to make the changes necessary,” Jimmie T. Smith with Concerned Veterans for America said.
The Atlanta VA has had a series of troubles under Brown’s watch.
In 2022, we reported on an elderly veteran brutally beaten by a VA employee. That employee was only disciplined months later by Atlanta VA leadership after we aired video of the incident.
Just last month, we told you how veterans can’t get through on the phone to Atlanta VA medical departments.
Now, a new leader will be taking on these ongoing challenges.
“Will he be willing to fire negligent or bad employees in a timely manner?” Lendemayer asked.
The VA said in a statement that Brown’s leadership has left a lasting effect on countless veterans.
The chief nurse at the Atlanta VA, Dr. Connie Hampton, is also leaving Monday for a temporary detail running a California VA facility.
In an email, a VA spokesperson emphasized that is a positive move for Hampton and they expect her to return to duty here in Atlanta.
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