Manchester VA

Peter Biello / NHPR

Flies have once again forced the closure of now all three of the Manchester VA's operating rooms. This comes just as Medical Center Director Al Montoya is preparing to leave the Manchester VA for a job leading the Connecticut VA system.

Montoya took the helm as director in July 2017 when the past director was removed from her position after 11 whistleblowers came forward with allegations of mismanagement of a variety of things, including how to remove flies from the operating room. 

Peter Biello / NHPR

A federal judge Wednesday denied "without prejudice" a motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a veteran challenging the presence of a Bible on a display table in the lobby of the Manchester VA Medical Center.

The VA sought to dismiss the case, arguing the man who filed the complaint, James Chamberlain, is Christian and therefore could not be personally injured by the presence of the Bible.

Chamberlain's attorney, Larry Vogelman, disagrees.

Peter Biello / NHPR

The director of the Manchester VA Medical Center is leaving to lead the Connecticut VA Healthcare System.

Al Montoya took the reins at the Manchester VA in July 2017, days after the Boston Globe reported on whistleblower allegations of mismanagement and harm to veterans seeking medical care at New Hampshire's only VA.

He had previously served as the director of the VA in White River Junction, Vermont.

On September 11th, we look at health care for veterans. It's been two years since whistleblowers at the Manchester VA alleged poor care and oversight, part of a string of similar cases nationally.  We ask where the veterans health care system is at today, what changes have occurred, and the role of politics in veteran healthcare. 

Manchester VA Medical Center

The leader of a national Hindu organization is calling on the Manchester VA to include a copy of its sacred text alongside a Christian Bible already on display in the medical center's lobby.

Rajan Zed is president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, based in Nevada. He asks the Manchester VA in an open letter Thursday to add the Bhagavad Gita to the display.

Zed says doing so would provide veterans "comfort and strength," which is in line with the VA's mission.

Two years ago, VA employees blew the whistle on what they called bad care for veterans at the Manchester VA, kicking off a scandal that made national news. 

This week, we’re taking a look at what happened in New Hampshire’s only VA Medical Center after the scandal.

Peter Biello / NHPR

Ed Kois, leader of the Manchester VA whistleblowers who came forward two years ago, has died in a car accident. He was 62.

Police say Kois was driving on Interstate 95 in Hampton when his car went off the road and struck a guardrail. Police say he likely suffered a medical event. Kois had recently been hospitalized for health problems and had planned to return to work this week.

Peter Biello / NHPR

A new system to serve the health needs of veterans takes effect Thursday. It’s called the VA MISSION Act. This law ends the program known as Veterans Choice, which aimed to create healthcare options for veterans in the private sector but was bogged down with bureaucratic problems. The MISSION Act aims to correct that with the new “Veterans Community Care Program.” NHPR's Peter Biello spoke with Manchester VA Medical Center Director Al Montoya about how the program will work.

NHPR

 

The Department of Veterans Affairs is holding a town hall meeting in New Hampshire to answer any questions about a new community care program that it will roll out next week.

The event takes place from Monday, 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., at the Manchester VA Medical Center.

Peter Biello / NHPR

Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie finished a tour of New England Friday with a stop at the Manchester VA.

The Manchester VA was selected recently as one of 18 VA hospitals nationwide to participate in a pilot program meant to boost patient safety.

VA Courtesy

The Manchester VA is planning a groundbreaking ceremony next week for a new veterans clinic in Somersworth.

The new clinic will be right across the parking lot from the current clinic on Route 108. Senator Maggie Hassan, Congressman-Elect Chris Pappas and Somersworth Mayor Dana Hilliard are among those scheduled to attend.

The new clinic will be more than twice the size of the current space and will offer more primary care, mental health, and telehealth services.

Peter Biello / NHPR

Another government report looking into whistleblower allegations at the Manchester VA finds no fault with its former leaders.

This report, by the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection, looked at senior leadership. Whistleblowers claimed former medical center director Danielle Ocker and chief of staff James Schlosser were not focused enough on patient care. In this report, investigators say quote: "We disagree."

Peter Biello / NHPR

The Department of Veterans Affairs says the quality of service at the Manchester VA Medical Center has improved in the past year.

In a report released Thursday, the VA's internal annual rating system shows that the Manchester VA now has three stars out of five.

Peter Biello

Complaints lodged by a dozen whistleblowers last year about the quality of care at the Manchester VA had consequences. At least four VA leaders lost their jobs and the government poured millions of dollars into improvements at the medical center.

But in an internal draft VA report obtained by NHPR, investigators say nearly all of those complaints were unfounded. (Scroll down to read the draft report.)

Courtesy

The Manchester VA Medical Center and the Nashua YMCA are partnering to expand yoga, tai chi, nutrition, reiki meditation and other whole health programs to veterans.

The partnership is funded by a $360,000 grant from the VA Office of Patient Centered Care and Cultural Transformation.

Dr. Romy Valdez is a VA Clinical Psychologist. He says it's part of an effort to change the way doctors think bout treating the whole veteran, "not just the parts of them that are diseased and in pain, but looking at how we can service the veteran so that they can feel self-empowered."

A new documentary explores what it means to be a female veteran of the military through the lens of a pageant known as Miss Veteran America.

The participants are veterans, and they help raise awareness of homelessness among female veterans. The film is called "Served Like a Girl," and tomorrow at Red River Theatres in Concord, a screening of the film will be followed by a panel discussion of the issues women veterans face.

Peter Biello / NHPR

President Donald Trump fired VA Secretary David Shulkin Wednesday. Shulkin had paid a visit to the Manchester VA last August after whistleblowers came forward with allegations of substandard facilities and mismanaged care, and since his visit, he'd kept in touch with whistleblowers about how things were going.Dr. Ed Kois is one of the whistleblowers who kept in contact with Secretary Shulkin. Kois spoke with NHPR's Peter Biello. 

Peter Biello / NHPR

The director of the New England VA Healthcare system announced his retirement Wednesday.

Dr. Michael Mayo-Smith's departure comes a day after New Hampshire's two congresswomen, Annie Kuster and Carol Shea-Porter, called for his removal.

Allegations of mismangement at New England VA facilities have dogged Mayo-Smith over much of the past year. Last summer, a dozen whistleblowers at the Manchester VA came forward with allegations of substandard care that caused some patients lasting harm. They were vocal opponents of Mayo-Smith and called for his removal then.

Peter Biello / NHPR

Congresswoman Annie Kuster is calling for the removal of a high-ranking VA official who she says needs to be held accountable for problems at New England's VA medical centers.

In a letter sent last month to VA Secretary David Shulkin, Kuster requests that Dr. Michael Mayo-Smith be removed from his position as director of the New England VA Healthcare System.

VA whistleblowers have been calling for his removal for months, saying that he knew about deficiencies at the Manchester VA but didn't do enough to help. 

Peter Biello / NHPR

  Sean Carrier is an Army veteran. He's 44 years old, and while serving in Iraq he survived seven IED blasts.

"And then I was in a hard landing in a C-130."

Al Montoya Named Director of Manchester VA Medical Center

Feb 25, 2018
NHPR File Photo

  The man appointed to temporarily lead the Manchester VA Medical Center after several top officials were removed last summer has been named the veteran facility's director.

Alfred Montoya had been serving as interim director of the Medical Center since July, when The Boston Globe reported on allegations of substandard care and treatment at the hospital.

Peter Biello / NHPR

Congresswoman Annie Kuster says VA Secretary David Shulkin must immediately address allegations related to official travel.

In an audit by the VA Office of Inspector General, Shulkin is found to have improperly accepted Wimbledon tennis tickets and gone on an 11-day European trip with his wife that mixed business and sightseeing at taxpayer expense.

A Troubled Investigation Into The Manchester VA

Jan 30, 2018
Peter Biello

The Department of Veterans Affairs launched an investigation into allegations of substandard care at the Manchester VA last year, after whistleblowers from the hospital went to the Boston Globe's Spotlight team.

Now, a new report says that the investigation ignored many of the complaints leveled by the whistleblowers, and at least one physician who was accused of poor care has found a job working with veterans elsewhere. We talk with Peter Biello, reporter and host of All Things Considered for NHPR, about the latest. 

Peter Biello / NHPR

It’s been nearly six months since problems at the Manchester VA made national headlines.

Whistleblowers came forward with accusations of dangerous delays in care and unsanitary conditions. A task force formed in the wake of those accusations has been meeting to figure out the best way to deliver care for New Hampshire veterans.

Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley spoke with NHPR's Peter Biello who attended a meeting of the task force yesterday.


www.nhbedbugs.org

Update: The Urgent care clinic was reopened Thursday afternoon, following the closure Wednesday, the VA reports.

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The Manchester VA's urgent care clinic was closed Wednesday after the discovery of bed bugs.

Patients were sent away after the bugs were found in the waiting room and in one exam room.

Peter Biello / NHPR

The Department of Veterans Affairs is asking military veterans from New Hampshire to provide feedback on the future of VA health care in the state.

The survey asks veterans about how they would prefer to receive VA services. It also asks about the impact of combining existing VA clinics in Somersworth and Portsmouth into a larger clinic in Dover.

Peter Biello / NHPR

A group studying the future of healthcare for New Hampshire's veterans meets Monday, and one key figure will not attend.

Dr. Michael Mayo-Smith, director of the New England VA system, is voluntarily stepping away from the task force.

This comes months after he was removed as its co-chair. He's been an informal advisor since then.

Peter Biello / NHPR

The Manchester VA has partnered with Rochester's Frisbie Memorial Hospital to provide gastrointestinal procedures to veterans on New Hampshire's seacoast.

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter made the announcement Thursday, calling it an important step toward making sure veterans can get the care they need locally.

Appointments will still be handled through the Manchester VA.

Peter Biello / NHPR

The Manchester veterans' hospital will use a federal grant to give veterans access to yoga, meditation and other complementary health practices.

The program, called "Healing Into Wholeness" will start next spring. Participants will work with "Whole Health" coaches and peer support groups to create personal health inventories. Yoga, massage, biofeedback and other practices will be offered at the medical center or in other communities.

Peter Biello / NHPR

The task force looking at the future of VA health care for New Hampshire veterans wrapped up two days of meetings Thursday. For the most part, these meetings are calm deliberations. Task force members listen to presentations, ask questions, and discuss VA issues.

But a heated exchange at yesterday's meeting highlights the simmering tensions between VA whistleblowers, who went public with their concerns, and VA leadership.

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