In other times, under different circumstances, it might have been worth a chuckle.

We’re talking about the video that surfaced Friday showing 16 workers at the Roseburg VA Medical Center, led by Director Keith M. Allen, dancing and clowning around.

No harm done, right? Just some harmless fun after a long week of work.

Wrong, and wrong again. Obviously, these are not normal times. As we all know — including those at the impromptu VA party — the world is in the midst of the worst pandemic in more than a century, and America is leading the way in all the wrong categories: Most COVID-19 cases, at over a million, and most deaths, at nearly 60,000.

Many of those cases and deaths have come at VA facilities. To date, more than 7,000 patients under VA care nationally have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and more than 450 of those patients have died.

Additionally, more than 1,900 VA employees have tested positive for the illness, and 20 have died. Among those testing positive are four Roseburg VA employees and one patient.

And yet here was Allen leading the dance party, boom box on his shoulder, encouraging others to join in the gaiety, laughing and shaking his hips while the camera is rolling, seemingly not a care in the world.

The partygoers not keeping their social distance. Not wearing masks. The lyrics to the song “Sweet Caroline” seemingly mocking the pandemic and the efforts to control it, including an executive order requiring health care workers to stay 6 feet apart and banning gatherings of more than 10 people.

“Hands, touching hands, reaching out, touching me, touching you ... Sweet Caroline, good times never seemed so good.”

Not only was the party recorded on video, but that video was posted to an internal VA site that 1,000 employees could watch. Many of those employees are on the front lines fighting COVID-19; some are infected themselves, fighting for their own lives. We doubt they found this video amusing.

At first the VA downplayed the party.

“This video was made in an administrative, non-clinical area where PPE is not required,” VA spokesman Tim Parish told The News-Review. “All staff who participated were volunteers and had been properly screened, per CDC and VA guidelines.”

Others, understandably, didn’t see it that way.

U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio called the party “totally inappropriate” and complained to Allen and his bosses about it. “I have no idea what that guy was thinking,” he said.

Allen, to his credit, did apologize, in the form of an email sent privately to community leaders.

“I would like to begin with an apology if this video offended anyone, it was not a dance party. It was meant to bring a small amount of stress relief and happiness to the Staff at the Roseburg VA Pathology and Laboratory Department,” Allen wrote. “At no time have I forgotten any of the staff or Veterans that have become infected by this virus. I hold each and every one of them in my thoughts and prayers.”

Allen took over the post at the Roseburg VA just over a year ago. Prior to that the facility had three directors in the previous year, including one who left after an investigation found the Roseburg VA suffered from a toxic management culture.

This is a dire, deadly serious moment in our country’s history. Tens of thousands of Americans have died and there is no immediate end in sight. As director of the Roseburg VA, Allen needs to exhibit clear-headed, moral, compassionate leadership.

He must do better. Those under his charge, and the veterans they care for, deserve that.

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melrosereader

Thank you for this editorial, Mr. Carroll.

The behavior of the admin director, during this crisis, reminded me --so sadly-- of the behavior of some local residents when Obama visited Roseburg to console victims and family members in the wake of the UCC shooting.

A total embarrassment to our community.

chicagomike

Allen’s corona virus dance party was an exercise in poor judgment and poor leadership. Screening for COVID 19 (taking temperature, asking questions) is not the same as testing. Thanks to Tim Parish for informing the Roseburg VA is following VA Guidelines for screening. Following VA Guidelines appears to be optional for some Veterans medical treatment or lack of treatment.

As for offering/providing numerous other medical screenings to Veterans the Roseburg VA gets a failing grade. Per Director Allen, sixty five percent of Roseburg VA Veterans are age 65 or older. This is the targeted age group that would benefit most from many of these screenings.

The toxic management culture is still very much alive and Roseburg VA Employees are still in fear of losing their jobs if they speak out. Veterans/volunteers who have spoken out are also targeted.

I do want to thank those employees who have encouraged me to look at VHA directives, handbooks and guidelines with regards the numerous problems I and other Veterans have experienced with Roseburg VA healthcare.

VISN 20, Director Allen, COS Hasserfratz etc. all have very specific responsibilities outlined in the VHA Directives yet they fail to fulfill those responsibilities which continues to place Veterans lives at risk.

Misrepresenting the truth is still the modus operandi with this administration as well.

“As director of the Roseburg VA, Allen needs to exhibit clear-headed, moral, compassionate leadership.” Will He?

Edgar

“This video was made in an administrative, non-clinical area where PPE is not required,” VA spokesman Tim Parish told The News-Review. “All staff who participated were volunteers and had been properly screened, per CDC and VA guidelines.”

This is a ridiculous statement. Were all 16 tested just prior to entering the room? That is the only way to know with 100% certainty that they were negative for the COVID-19 virus. I very much doubt that they had their nasal passages swabbed in the hallway, stayed there for days awaiting results, and then all proceeded to dance into the room. Obviously, that would be ludicrous. These people all have homes away from the VA, as well as friends, families, and personal lives that are disparate from their employment. The come in contact with others (and other environments) every day. One test or screening in the past only guarantees that a person is negative for the virus from the moment of, and prior to, testing.

As a veteran and current patient of the Roseburg VA, I know for a fact that several of the VA employees in this video do in fact interact with patients on occasion, and with other VA employees in other departments. I could name several of these employees in this video, but I don't find that appropriate or necessary. I've seen them in Bldg#1, Bldg#2, the canteen, and other common areas. To imply that they are explicitly isolated is simply false.

To be clear, I see nothing wrong with a flash-mob "dance party", or whatever name you wish to give this. Morale is important, especially in a high stress environment, in an unusual situation. But to do so in such an egregious manner in regard to sanitation and vector control is embarrassing for the Roseburg VA. Everyone involved deserves better.

Mike

Roseburg's VA is the headline example in a nationwide news article questioning the increasing number of VA patients and staff nationwide infected with COVID-19. "It questioned what appears in Roseburg to be a flagrant violation of the state and federal protocols designed to limit spread of the disease."

According to the article, Roseburg's VA has 4 confirmed cases of coronavirus. How did the writers of the article get this information while our own DPHN refuses provide any information on the location of coronavirus cases, especially at the VA and retirement communities? According to the article, a spokesperson for the Roseburg VA could not be reached for comment.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/roseburg-va-director-leads-coronavirus-dance-party-without-social-distancing-face-masks/ar-BB13d04B

Mike

U.S. total coronavirus deaths have already passed 61,000 today and 15 states have yet to report.

Today's 8,870 world coronavirus deaths is already a one day record at this early point in the day.

Mike

Total world coronavirus deaths for today were 10,229, a new record. 2,403 of those deaths occurred in the U.S.

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