The VA confirmed in October rooms were shut down for surgery staff to review procedures, practices and policies and conduct retraining. Surgical patients were being rescheduled or sent to non-VA facilities, with the VA footing the bill, the agency said at the time.
Experts told the AJC that an operating-room shutdown of a even week would be highly unusual.
The lengthy layoff will add more wait time for veterans, who already face waits of more than three months for some medical procedures. The Decatur hospital and its satellite clinics serve 120,000 veterans in the area.
Veterans Integrated Service Network 7, home to about 1.2 million veterans in Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina, is the worst in the nation according to two recent VA measures. Veterans give it the lowest patient satisfaction scores of the country’s 18 regions and three of its eight hospitals, including Decatur, rank among the country’s four worst in employee satisfaction. The Decatur hospital also reported the most difficulty recruiting workers of 140 VA medical facilities in the U.S.
Dr. Richard Stone, the executive in charge of Veterans Health Administration, told the AJC last month that he has sent in special strike teams and mentors since last year to fix problems. He replaced the Decatur hospital administrator last spring. After the veteran was found covered in ant bites in September, he placed Wiggins and the regional medical director on leave and reassigned seven staff members to non-patient-care positions.
“I expect leaders to improve performance,” he told the AJC. “If they can’t, veterans deserve to have a leadership change.”
Wiggins was appointed as the Decatur hospital administrator in 2013 and was promoted to the post of regional director in 2015.
The VA in September assigned Scott Isaacks from a VA hospital in Charleston that posted four- and five-star scores in recent year as the interim regional director. Five is the highest score.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has reported consistent problems at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Atlanta. The discovery of a dying military veteran under VA care covered in ant bites in September prompted the federal agency to shake up regional leadership. In late September, the largest VA hospital in the Southeast also suspended routine surgeries amid a broader review of practices.