Hampton VA director says no major staff changes

HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) – The head of the Hampton VA Medical Center said he does not plan to overhaul his staff, despite remarks from the new Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

Secretary Robert McDonald said this fall that as many as a thousand staff members nationwide should be terminated or reprimanded.

“There’s really been no change in the processes here,” Hampton director Michael Dunfee told WAVY.com. “When there are actions taken, the employees know, the employees who are impacted know what the actions are, and it’s a private process.”

When asked why there has been “no change in the process,” Dunfee said the recent audit of the medical center showed none of his staff were deliberately trying to mislead or harm veterans.

Dunfee said Hampton’s problem is not quality of care, but lack of access to that care. He said Hampton is getting better with training, and scheduling. The medical center plans to add as many as four hundred parking spaces. Veterans Affairs will also add space in Virginia Beach to expand its Southside clinic.

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ new Choice program is designed to provide civilian care options to qualified veterans. Dunfee said he’s hoping VA headquarters will show some flexibility in its 40-mile minimum distance rule, which the agency currently measures on a straight line.

“It’s been something that has definitely been raised here,” he said. “As the crow flies really doesn’t apply as cleanly [in Hampton Roads].”

But Dunfee said he doesn’t know how or when the rule will be resolved for veterans in the area.

Local veterans have told WAVY News 10 they’ve gone through hassles with the civilian care option, when it comes to prescriptions and referrals. Dunfee and his chief of staff said Thursday afternoon that those issues will not require a visit to Hampton, if they are approved by the program’s third-party administrator, Health Net.

Dunfee said he has funding to hire 63 new doctors by April, and the medical center has added evening and weekend clinics to provide more primary care.

The Hampton VA Medical Center will hold an information fair and town hall Monday, December 15. The information fair begins at 3 p.m. and the town hall begins at 5 p.m. Both will be held in the medical center’s main chapel, Building One.

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