Roseburg Veterans Administrator Doug Paxton, who promised transparency and solutions to vets in the region, including Curry County, has resigned following allegations of substandard care, misconduct, mismanagement, retaliation toward whistle-blowers and a toxic work environment.

He has been reassigned as the assistant director at the Huntington VAMC in West Virginia.

David Whitmer will serve as the interim director, effective Feb. 4, said public affairs officer Shanon Goodwin. He added that this is the “first step aimed at improving care for veterans served by Roseburg, which remains one of VA’s 15 lowest-performing facilities.”

“Doug Paxton’s departure from the Roseburg VA is overdue,” said Mike Berns, a Coast Guard veteran in Brookings who has often berated Paxton for the problems at the Roseburg VA. “I am hopeful his replacement can undo the damage that’s been done and address the systemic problems with the Roseburg VA healthcare system.”

“It’s been clear from the growing number of troubling reports from veterans served in that system that change is needed to provide the top-notch care those veterans deserve,” said U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley in a joint press release. “We hope this change marks a needed step forward to achieve the goal of transforming it into a place worthy of the veterans who rely on it for quality health care.”

Whitmer has 20 years of service in clinical and administrative settings within VA and the Department of Health and Human Services; he currently serves as chief operating officer of the Sunshine Health Network in St. Petersburg, Florida.

This action was necessary as a step to improve care for veterans at Roseburg,” said Carolyn Clancy, executive in charge of the Veterans Health Administration. “There are times when facility leadership needs to change to usher in a new approach to demonstrate we are committed to delivering results for veterans and taxpayers.”

Areas to be targeted for “rapid improvement” include access to care, performance measures, patient and employee experience and mortality.

Whitmer earned his master’s of political science, public administration and a bachelor of arts in secondary social science education from the University of South Florida. He then served in various leadership and supervisory roles from 1999 to 2014 at the National Institute of Health.

He began his VA career in 2014. Since then, he has worked as acting chief operating officer at hospitals in Tampa and West Palm Beach, Florida. There, he was responsible for the oversight of hospital operations, as well as that of environment of care and quality management for two accreditation of rehabilitation facility commission reviews.

“Whitmer is an experienced leader who brings to Roseburg a background of developing operational strategies, planning enterprise-wide business requirements, evaluating program effectiveness and improving business operations into actions that transform the delivery of healthcare services to veterans,” Clancy said. “We are looking forward to his leadership as we recruit a permanent director for Roseburg.”

He is also a graduate of the NIH Senior Leadership Program, University of Maryland University College, OPM’s Executive Development Program and a Fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives.

Reach Jane Stebbins at jstebbins@currypilot.com .

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