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Saturday, March 12, 2011


New VA hospital director an award-winning administrator

By Tom Beyerlein
, Staff Writer
Updated 11:00 PM Friday, March 11, 2011
DAYTON — Department of Veterans Affairs officials on Friday said they coaxed an award-winning hospital administer out of retirement to help the Dayton VA Medical Center recover from the scandal surrounding a dentist’s unsanitary practices that may have led to hepatitis infections of nine dental clinic patients.

William Montague, who headed six VA hospitals including the Louis Stokes VA Medical Center in Cleveland, becomes the Dayton VA’s acting director Monday, replacing Director Guy Richardson, who was reassigned to a job at regional headquarters in Cincinnati.

“As most of you know, these major issues (facing the VA) have involved questions about our hospital dental care and the infection control practices of a provider,” VA regional Director Jack Hetrick said in a Friday message to the Dayton staff. He said “we are well on the way to fully addressing this matter.”
He continued, “While Mr. Montague is here, Mr. Richardson will be detailed to the (Veterans Integrated Services Network) to assist with VISN-wide initiatives.”

VA spokesman Todd Sledge said he had no information as to whether Richardson could return to the Dayton VA post. Richardson could not be reached for comment. Sledge said “there’s no overarching reason to believe” that Richardson isn’t capable of running a hospital. In fact, he said, “Mr. Richardson’s record stands for his great performance in Dayton.

Richardson’s salary grew 12 percent between fiscal 2008 and 2010 to $167,328, according to the Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions. He also received an $11,874 bonus last fiscal year.
The Dayton VA has been beset with controversy and tragedy during Richardson’s tenure. National surveys in recent years found the Dayton hospital ranked low in patient and employee satisfaction among VA hospitals. Last April, Iraq War veteran Jesse Huff, clad in full combat attire, shot himself to death on the VA steps after being treated there hours earlier.

U.S. Rep. Steve Austria said he “expressed disappointment” with the Dayton VA’s leadership in a meeting Wednesday with VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. “I am confident that the action Secretary Shineski has taken is the right step forward to help prevent incidents like this from occurring in the future.”
“By reorganizing the Dayton VA, we’re one step closer to the superior care that Ohio’s veterans deserve,” said U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, who, along with U.S. Sen. Rob Portman and U.S. Reps. Mike Turner and Austria, pushed Shineski for better oversight of the local hospital.

The dental clinic was temporarily closed last summer amid revelations that dentist Dwight M. Pemberton failed to change latex gloves and sterilize instruments properly between 1992 and June 2010. Subsequent health screenings turned up the nine suspected hepatitis infections.
An Oct. 4 investigative report shows Pemberton’s co-workers alerted VA officials about his unsafe practices for several years, but supervisors allowed him to continue treating patients. Pemberton, who has declined to comment, got a raise last year. He retired in February.

The VA announced that Montague agreed to come out of retirement for the Dayton job. Montague was federal employee of the year in 2000 and won two presidential meritorious rank awards. Under his direction, the Stokes hospital increased the number of veterans it treated by 225 percent, the VA said.

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