EUGENE, Ore. (AP) - U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs investigators plan to visit the state to look into management, personnel issues and medical practices at the Roseburg and Eugene veterans clinics, a spokeswoman for an Oregon congressman said.
The investigation follows a report by The Register-Guard less than two weeks ago on claims by Dr. Scott Russi and several nurses that poor leadership at the Roseburg location and retaliation against whistleblowers were driving doctors to move to the Eugene clinic, compromising patient care.
U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio’s spokeswoman, Beth Schoenbach, told the paper that the investigation team will be in Oregon on Monday and Tuesday to gather information and interview employees.
Shanon Goodwin, a spokeswoman for Veteran Affairs in Roseburg, confirmed two investigators will come by this week.
The investigators are coming after DeFazio’s office had repeatedly asked them to look into the Roseburg and Eugene facilities, Schoenbach said.
“There is a culture of fear of retaliation (that) is making it difficult to attract and retain talent … which leads to worse care for the veterans,” she said. “He’s not calling out any one person by name. He’s calling for change and investigation into what is creating this culture.”
Amber Beyer, a nurse at the Eugene clinic who was on staff when Russi was fired Aug. 4, is looking forward to the investigators’ visit. She said she’s willing to speak to them openly.
Russi said he was fired without any explanation or opportunity to challenge his termination.
Goodwin did not comment on Russi’s firing, citing privacy rules that prevent Veterans Affairs from commenting on personnel issues.
Beyer hopes the investigation will result in Russi’s return.
“What we want to see happen is to improve care here at the VA,” she said. “We want to destroy roadblocks and loosen red tape. We want to see fair and equitable treatment of our staff.”
The inspectors expect to return to Oregon on Nov. 13, Schoenbach said.
Veteran Affairs will give DeFazio’s office updates after each visit. It expects to hand over preliminary report around Thanksgiving and a formal report by the end of the year.
Information from: The Register-Guard, http://www.registerguard.com
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