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Kirk wants Hines chief out even though VA audit found no issues

U.S. Sen Mark Kirk called for the resignation of Edward Hines Jr. Veterans Affairs Hospital director Joan Ricard, saying Friday that her ouster is necessary “to establish a culture of culpability” in the wake of an alleged wait list scam.

His call for her resignation comes despite a recent audit that came up with no evidence of wrongdoing.

Speaking at his downtown offices Friday morning, Kirk said “Joan Ricard, the director here, should step down.”

Kirk said fraud was “endemic to government-provided health care” and that “what we have seen is this culture of corruption at Hines.”

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While he said he continued to support embattled Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, he said Ricard’s resignation would bring accountability to Hines.

Hines — in west suburban Maywood — has been caught up in an unproven but growing scandal about care in VA hospitals. A whistleblower earlier this month alleged that administrators there inflated their performance to reap bonuses.

Federal auditors visited the hospital to check out claims that a secret waiting list was allegedly maintained to hide lengthy delays for sick veterans, making it appear as if they saw doctors sooner than they had. In fact, it was claimed, some may have waited months and died before seeing a doctor.

But Shinseki said on Thursday that “in our audit, our team that went to visit Hines, I don’t recall anything that popped up.”

Ricard did not respond to calls requesting comment Friday, but Hines spokeswoman Charity Hardison said, “We have not received communication from the senator’s office on this specific issue.

“The director and all employees at Hines VA Hospital remain committed to leading this organization and providing the best care our Veterans have earned and deserve.”