The Department of Veterans Affairs has named Rima Ann Nelson as the new director of the Phoenix VA Medical Center. Nelson had been the center of controversy when as director of the St. Louis VA nearly 2000 veterans were potentially exposed to HIV.
Under Nelson’s leadership, the hospital received the lowest satisfaction rating of all facilities in the VA hospital system.
In February 2016, the Daily Caller reported: “Rima Nelson disappeared from public view after the St. Louis Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital she managed potentially exposed 1,800 patients to HIV, was closed twice for serious medical safety issues and ranked dead last in patient satisfaction.”
According to the Daily Caller, “Nelson wasn’t fired. Her VA superiors hid her literally on the other side of the Earth in 2013 at the department’s only foreign facility, a seldom-used clinic inside the palatial U.S. Embassy in the Philippines capital city of Manila.”
On September 22, U.S. Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake sent a letter to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald urging him to hire a qualified, permanent director for the Phoenix VA Health Care System who can provide quality, long-term leadership for Arizona’s veterans, according to a joint statement. In the letter, the senators urge Secretary McDonald to prioritize hiring an official with medical or military experience, who is committed to veteran-centric care, implementing the Veteran Choice Care and the Clay Hunt Act suicide-prevention pilot program, and working with members of the Arizona congressional delegation to ensure that veterans receive the care they deserve.
“The veterans who depend on the PVAHCS for their healthcare deserve a high-quality, full-time and permanent director to provide long-term leadership and reform,” wrote the senators. “Hiring a permanent director at PVAHCS should be the highest priority for the department. It is critical that any future director put veterans first as well as understand and have experience caring for the unique health care needs of the veteran community.”
It would appear that the senators’ request for a “qualified permanent director” was ignored. The Phoenix VA employees were notified on September 28, that the appointment would be effective Oct. 2, 2016.