In response to the preliminary report from the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Office of the Inspector General regarding the Washington, DC VA hospital, American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. issued the following statement:
“The mismanagement at the Washington, DC VA hospital exposed by the VA’s Inspector General is absolutely wrong. It is unconscionable that basic management functions such as making sure the hospital has adequate medical supplies and a reliable inventory system have been neglected.
“Some politicians and outside groups will inevitably try to exploit this situation to justify their privatization agenda. Others will use it to further their interest in politicizing the VA by installing political cronies rather than competent managers to fix the problems that have been identified. Neither privatization, nor putting political hacks in charge of hospitals is the answer to the crises the IG has identified. Either of these responses will only worsen the situation at the VA.
“The answer is to be honest about the cause of the problems and to address the root cause. Why were adequate supplies not purchased? Why were outdated medical supplies not removed? Why was no inventory system in place? Why were inspections of sterile rooms not conducted?
“If there were too few staff, or inadequate funding for the volume of work at the hospital, it is up to the leaders at the Veterans Health Administration to fix these problems immediately.
“For those who care about the welfare of veterans, this is not a moment to score political points. It’s a moment to get to work to solve these issues immediately. The very best problem-solvers and the most ardent allies of veterans are the VA’s frontline workers who care for veterans despite management failures. Many are even veterans themselves who also receive care at VA medical facilities.
“The 250,000 employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs represented by the American Federation of Government Employees – 85,000 of whom are veterans themselves – want only to fix problems, not to exploit or politicize them. We stand ready to work with Secretary David Shulkin and Washington’s VA Medical Center’s leaders to solve each and every issue the IG has identified.
“Working together, we are certain we can address all of these issues so that the 98,000 veterans who rely on the Washington, DC VA hospital receive the quality care they deserve.”
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 700,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.