The mayor of Charleston, West Virginia, told The News-Review on Monday evening that former Roseburg Veterans Affairs Director Doug Paxton won’t be reassigned to a West Virginia VA after all.
Charleston Mayor Danny Jones said he became concerned about Paxton after hearing about the troubles he’d had in Roseburg on a late-night radio show. So he contacted his friend and U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, who he said succeeded in having the appointment canceled.
“He’s gone. He’s not coming here,” Jones said.
Paxton’s reassignment to the Huntington VA, which covers veterans in the Charleston area, followed allegations of whistle-blower retaliation and of high-risk patients being turned away for care in order to improve the hospital’s star rating. Paxton was to be the assistant director at the Huntington VA.
Jones contacted a couple of people in Roseburg to learn more about Paxton. He spoke with union representative Karl Tanner, and with Susan Neeley May, a former VA clerk who had problems with another recently transferred manager, former Chief of Surgery Dinesh Ranjan.
Jones, a veteran himself, said West Virginia has enough problems already, from the loss of coal jobs to an opioid crisis. He didn’t want the Roseburg VA’s problems to become their problems, too.
“I feel very good about what we accomplished, and he’s not coming here. I don’t know the guy, I don’t know anything about it, but why would this be happening if he was going to be a plus? We just don’t need it here,” Jones said.
Manchin’s website indicates he asked for the Department of Veterans Affairs to reconsider its decision to transfer Paxton to West Virginia.
“Our Veterans deserve the best healthcare available and I was deeply disappointed to hear of what happened under Douglas Paxton’s watch at the Roseburg VA facility in Oregon,” Manchin said in a written statement. “These types of reassignment policies are exactly the thing that prevents the VA from providing our Veterans with consistent high-quality healthcare and services of which they are so deserving.”
May said when she spoke to Jones, he seemed “very, very genuine.”
“They do not want our castoffs,” she said.
May thinks Paxton should be fired from the VA, not transferred to another facility.
Tanner could not be reached for comment.
VA doctor Steven Blum said it’s unfortunate that Manchin had to step in to stop a transfer he said “never should have been approved in the first place.”
“Shuffling problematic employees to other unsuspecting facilities is not a solution for improving veterans’ care. It has become obvious that it takes extreme outside scrutiny in order to force the VA to hold its managers accountable,” Blum said.
Former VA employee and veterans advocate Dona Brewer also objected to what she said is the VA’s continued attempt to transfer bad managers instead of firing them outright.
“There is a national network monitoring this kind of behavior, and thank God it reached VA Huntington,” she said.
Now, she said, the VA should reconsider its decision to transfer Ranjan to the regional network that oversees the northwestern states.
“Both have harmed veterans and VA staff and misled the local community,” she said.