Two other top officials with ties to Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital recently left their jobs — around the same time the director of the hospital announced she was stepping down, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.
Dr. Jeffrey Murawsky, health care chief for the VA’s Chicago-based regional office, sent an Oct. 9 email that was forwarded to the Sun-Times, stating that he was resigning so he could pursue “a position outside of the Department of Veterans Affairs closer to my family in Southern Nevada.”
Murawsky had been nominated by President Obama to be the top health official at the Veterans Affairs Department but withdrew his name in June.
In his regional job, Murawsky oversaw seven VA hospitals and 30 clinics in Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan. He was also a doctor at Hines hospital, technically remaining on staff, the Associated Press reported, though Charity Hardison, spokeswoman for Hines VA, said Murawsky “was not currently a doctor at Hines.”
The other official to leave recently was Pat McCoy, who retired effective Sept. 30 as director of quality and systems improvement at Hines, a spokeswoman for Hines VA confirmed.
A spokesman for the VA’s Chicago-based regional office could not immediately be reached.
Both resignations came around the same time as when the director of Hines hospital announced Oct. 7 that she would retire at the end of this month. After working for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for nearly 40 years – and serving as head of Hines for two, Joan Ricard said in a statement that she had always had it in mind that she would finish her VA career at a large facility like Hines.
She declined to speak to the Sun-Times.
There have been a slew of allegations about poor treatment at veteran’s hospitals across the country, including at Hines VA.
It is alleged that Hines patients were being kept on secret waiting lists; the publicized waiting lists showed much faster treatment than had actually occurred, allowing hospital executives to collect bonuses linked to meeting standards for speedy treatment. That was part of an alleged scam that is now believed to be a nationwide problem for Veteran Affairs hospitals.
Officials at Hines VA has repeatedly denied all allegations, saying they are committed to providing the best care for their patients. And there is no evidence that the resignations were because of what is alleged to have gone on at Hines VA.
Hardison said McCoy’s retirement “was her personal decision and was in no way related to the OIG investigation that the Hines Director requested.”
But Germaine Clarno, the employee union president at Hines VA who first alleged back in May that Hines patients were being kept on secret waiting lists, said: “I find it interesting that three key executives at Hines leave at the same time when there are ongoing investigations.”
Though Murawsky was considered President Obama’s top choice for being the new undersecretary for health care, he took his name out of consideration, saying he feared a prolonged fight over his confirmation, the Associated Press said.
The previous undersecretary of health care had left his position amid a firestorm over delays in patient care and preventable deaths at veterans hospitals.