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VA Takes Step To Dismiss Head of Pittsburgh Office Over Legionella Outbreak

The Department of Veterans Affairs wants to fire the Director of the Pittsburgh VA Healthcare System. 

A statement from the VA says the department proposed the removal of the director  “following an investigation by the Office of Accountability Review (OAR) in which allegations of conduct unbecoming a Senior Executive were substantiated.”

Terry Gerigk Wolf had been placed on paid administrative leave June 13 pending a review of the Legionella outbreak at which caused the deaths of at least six veterans sickened more than 20 others at the Pittsburgh VA Hospital.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the outbreak began in February 2011 but was only publicly acknowledged in November 2012.

In the statement, the VA cited new statutory authority:

“Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson took this action in coordination with OAR, which reports directly to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and assists VA facilities in accelerating leadership accountability actions and ensuring that such actions are applied consistently across the Department.”

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), who has proposed legislation to improve the way infectious disease oubreaks are reported, says he's pleased the department is taking action to hold officials at VA Pittsburgh accountable.

"What happened to our veterans in Pittsburgh was a betrayal, plain and simple," Casey said. "This announcement is an important step, but certainly not the end of what needs to be done to bring justice to the impacted families and full accountability for those responsible for the way the outbreak was handled."

Wolf has the opportunity to reply in writing “to the charges and evidence supporting the removal.”  

The VA says Secretary Robert McDonald will make a final decision on the proposed dismissal after considering Wolf's reply to the charges.

Chief Medical Officer David MacPherson has been serving as acting director of the Pittsburgh VA Healthcare System since mid-June.