PHOENIX – Three executives of the veterans hospital in Phoenix have been placed on administrative leave amid an investigation into allegations of corruption and preventable deaths at the facility, federal officials announced Thursday.
Phoenix VA Health Care System Director Sharon Helman and associate director Lance Robinson would be placed on leave “until further notice,” U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki said. The third employee was not identified.
The Phoenix facility has been under fire in recent weeks over allegations that up to 40 patients may have died because of delays in care and that the hospital kept a secret list of patients waiting for appointments to hide the treatment delays.
Earlier Thursday, before the announcement that she would be placed on leave, Helman and the hospital’s chief of staff denied any knowledge of a secret list and said they had found no evidence of patient deaths due to delayed care.
“We take those allegations very seriously,” Helman told the Associated Press Thursday morning, noting she welcomed an independent review by the VA Office of Inspector General. Helman’s office declined to comment after the announcement Thursday afternoon.
The claims are the latest to come to light as VA hospitals around the country struggle to handle the huge volume of patients who need medical attention, including aging vets from World War II, Korea and Vietnam and a newer influx from wars over the last decade. In the past year, VA facilities in South Carolina, Florida, Georgia and Washington state have been linked to delays in patient care or poor oversight.
Shinseki said the move to put the Phoenix officials on leave was requested by the inspector general’s office, which has sent investigators to the facility.