'There are times that facility leadership needs to change': Director leaving Roseburg VA

The VA announced that Doug Paxton "has stepped down and an interim replacement has being named. This is step aimed at improving care for Veterans served by Roseburg, which remains one of VA’s 15 lowest performing facilities." (File photo)

ROSEBURG, Ore. - The director of VA Roseburg Health Care System is leaving the post.

The VA announced that Doug Paxton "has stepped down and an interim replacement has being named. This is step aimed at improving care for Veterans served by Roseburg, which remains one of VA’s 15 lowest performing facilities."

An internal email sent to employees indciated Paxton "requested, and has received, a reassignment as the Associate Director at Huntington VAMC, in West Virginia."

At a press conference in Eugene, Rep. Peter DeFazio applauded what he called overdue change in management at the Roseburg VA.

"It shouldn't have taken 4 years, but finally we've got some real results," DeFazio said. "We had an endemic failure of management at VA Roseburg. They are bringing in a very high ranking VA official."

U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley issued a joint statement on the change:

It’s been clear from the growing number of troubling reports from veterans served in Roseburg’s VA system that change is needed to provide the top-notch care those veterans deserve
We hope this change marks a needed step forward to achieve the goal of transforming the VA’s Roseburg system into a place worthy of the veterans who rely on it for quality health care
Rest assured, we will continue to work with Congressman DeFazio to ensure this management change and other steps to move the VA to address longstanding allegations of substandard care, misconduct, mismanagement, retaliation toward whistle-blowers and a toxic work environment.

DeFazio went back over the timeline of events that led to the VA sending investigators to Roseburg in October, November and December to conduct "close to 200 interviews."

"At this point, the director has been reassigned temporarily outside of here, The chief of surgery has been reassigned," DeFazio said. "The head of mental health has been moved out. The nurse manager has also been moved out."

David L. Whitmer, the Chief Operating Officer from VISN 8 serving Florida, will take over as interim director in Roseburg.

“This action was necessary as a step to improve care for Veterans at Roseburg. There are times that facility leadership needs to change in order to usher in a new approach that will demonstrate we are committed to delivering results for Veterans and taxpayers,” said Dr. Carolyn Clancy, Executive in Charge, Veterans Health Administration.

“Mr. Whitmer is an experienced leader who brings to Roseburg a background of developing operational strategies, planning enterprise-wide business requirements, evaluating program effectiveness, and improving business operations into actions that transform the delivery of healthcare services to veterans. We are looking forward to his leadership as we recruit a permanent director for Roseburg,” Clancy said.

DeFazio applauded the move.

"I'm confident he will begin the process of healing and turning things around in Roseburg. We have many, many dedicated providers down there who have been oppressed by bad management," the Springfield Democrat said. "This should have all been resolved 2 1/2, 3 years ago after my first complaint was found to be justified, I'm pleased that ultimately with new management at the very top of the VA."

The email to employees from Micahale Murphy, director of VISN 20 serving the Pacific Northwest, also addressed the scrutiny the Roseburg VA has faced.

"As you know, the past several months have been challenging, as your facility and leadership team have been the subject of much interest by Members of Congress and local/national media. You are to be commended for your continued dedication to Veterans in the midst of a distracting and at times, demoralizing, period. In the face of numerous reviews, and negative stories, you have remained committed to VA’s mission, which includes providing the highest quality care in the safest manner possible," Murphy wrote. "In closing, I would like to thank Mr. Paxton for his many, many contributions to the mission and success of the VA Roseburg Health Care System, of which you all also played an integral part."

The staff changes take effect February 4.

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