DC VA hospital's acting director departs amid investigation into his appointment

Retired Army Col. Lawrence Connell is no longer acting director of the Washington D.C. VA Medical Center, according to an email sent to medical center staff by Raymond Chung MD, acting director of the VA Capitol Health Care Network.

Dr. Chung noted Mr. Connell's "temporary detail as acting director expired as scheduled April 7." The plan was for Mr. Connell to continue as director permanently, however "issues regarding technical aspects of his initial appointment as acting director have arisen making it impossible at this time."

Dr. Chung stated the move had "absolutely nothing to do with [Mr. Connell's] performance, which has been phenomenal."

Mr. Connell assumed the director role at the D.C. VA hospital in April 2017. CNN reported late last month the VA's Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection had launched an investigation into his appointment. A memo obtained by CNN alleges several protocols may have been violated when Mr. Connell was appointed as acting director. Mr. Connell was a senior adviser to former VA Secretary David Shulkin and worked on President Trump's transition staff. The memo notes, "we cannot conclude this selection was free from political influence or other impropriety."

Additionally, Stars and Stripes reported many of the sanitation issues that had plagued the hospital in April 2017 have not yet been mitigated. According to inspection records reviewed by Stars and Stripes, unsanitary conditions still exist at the facility, including a hospital blood bank refrigerator that wasn't working as recently as March.

Charles Faselis, MD, will take over as acting director of the Washington D.C. VA Medical Center. Dr. Faselis most recently served as chief of staff at the medical center. He was initially named acting director of the medical center in April 2017, before VA changed tack and named Mr. Connell.

Mr. Connell will return to VA's central office and serve as a senior advisor to the VA secretary for healthcare.

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