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Panel to search for new chief of veterans health care

Jun. 17, 2014 - 01:15PM   |  
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The search is again on for a new chief of the Veterans Health Administration.

Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan Gibson announced Tuesday that a nine-member commission will meet to consider candidates to replace VA Undersecretary for Health Dr. Robert Petzel, who abruptly resigned May 16 ahead of his scheduled retirement amid VA’s growing appointment wait time scandal.

A similar commission met last summer to choose Petzel’s replacement and selected Dr. Jeffrey Murawsky, director of VA’s regional network that oversees the department’s facilities in Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois.

But Murawsky withdrew his nomination earlier this month out of concern that his Senate confirmation process would spark “a prolonged political battle.”

Murawsky had once directly supervised Sharon Helman, hospital chief of the Phoenix VA Health System, which became the flash point for the current scandal amid reports of questionable scheduling practices, long wait times and potential deaths linked to mismanagement at the facility.

Gibson said Tuesday that commission members “understand the urgency and seriousness of the task ahead” and will choose a “change agent.”

“This is one of the most important jobs in government today,” Gibson said. “This is the largest integrated health care system in the country. We need a leader who will ... deliver necessary reforms to provide our veterans timely access to the world-class health care they’ve earned and deserve.”

Commission members include Dr. Toby Cosgrove of the Cleveland Clinic, whose name surfaced as a potential candidate to replace VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho.

VA officials did not say when they expect the commission to complete its work.

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