A week ago, the Veterans Administration in Roseburg accepted Director Doug Paxton’s “resignation” and tried to re-assign him to a facility in Huntington, West Virginia.

But it seems West Virginia doesn’t want him, either.

Charleston Mayor Danny Jones said his veterans’ hospitals face huge problems including the loss of coal mine jobs and an opioid addiction crisis — and they don’t want Roseburg’s problems heaped on top. The Huntington VA serves the Charleston area.

Paxton’s resignation and re-assignment were based on allegations of retaliation on whistleblowers and the practice of turning away high-risk patients to improve the hospital’s star rating. Paxton was to be the assistant director at Huntington VA.

“He’s gone; he’s not coming here,” Jones told a reporter with disabledveterans.org. “I don’t know the guy; I don’t know anything about it. But why would this be happening if he was going to be a plus? We just don’t need it here.”

Jones was backed up by West Virginia State Sen. Joe Manchin, who called on the VA to reconsider its decision to transfer Paxton there.

“Our veterans deserve the best health care available, and I was deeply disappointed to hear of what happened under Douglas Paxton’s watch at the Roseburg VA facility in Oregon,” Manchin said on his website.

“These types of re-assignment policies are exactly the thing that prevents the VA from providing our veterans with consistent high-quality health care and services of which they are so deserving.”

Veteran advocate Dona Brewer concurred, saying such an action is merely the VA’s “continued attempt to transfer bad management instead of firing them outright.”

Dr. Steven Blum of the VA in West Virginia said it was “unfortunate something that should never have been approved in the first place” had to be addressed at the state level.

“Shuffling problematic employees to other unsuspecting facilities is not a solution for improving veterans’ care, he said. “It has become obvious that it takes extreme outside scrutiny to force the VA to hold its managers accountable.”

In Roseburg Monday, David Witmer started work in Paxton’s stead.

Witmer has 20 years of service in clinical and administrative settings within VA and the Department of Health and Human Services, most recently working as chief operating officer of the Sunshine Health Network in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Reach Jane Stebbins at jstebbins@currypilot.com .

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