A general warning has been issued by MilitaryCorruption.com to all veterans entering the Dorn VA Medical Center (VAMC). Since our previous article, the “cards and letters” have been pouring in describing the pathetic state of affairs at the Dorn VA Medical Center in Columbia, South Carolina.
Dorn surgery service has allegedly placed the Chief of Surgery Dr. James M. Nottingham on administrative leave, with a no-contact order. Nottingham is suspected of tampering with ongoing facility investigations regarding Dr. Joann M. Lohr and Dr. Paul B. Kerr.
Dr. Kerr has been recently removed from surgical service, allegedly for administering a lethal dose of medication that ended the life of a veteran. Dr. Joann Lohr was hired to do vascular surgery but does not successfully fulfil the role as she cannot not properly administer procedures normally required of a competent vascular surgeon.
Dr. James Nottingham became an enabler. Nottingham is suspected of taking overt steps to protect doctors Lohr and Kerr from scrutiny and accountability. Because of his interference in the due process of legitimate investigations, Nottingham was apparently removed from his job in early May.
Quality Management (QM) personnel have been looking thru charts related to Dr. Joann Lohr. What specifically Dr. Nottingham did to be suddenly sent on “administrative leave” is unclear. It could have involved inappropriate actions regarding specific charts connected with Dr. Lohr and/or Dr. Kerr.
At this point everyone is tight-lipped about the specifics regarding Nottingham’s sudden departure.
What is the function of “Quality Management?” These are programs and policies that support the ongoing assessment and improvement of healthcare outcomes and healthcare delivery processes in a hospital setting.
Sadly, it’s been reported the Dorn Department of Surgery had been driven into the ground since Nottingham assumed the job as Chief of Surgery. Our sources also tell us that Nottingham has a very close personal relationship with doctors Lohr and Kerr.
We are told this close personal relationship between Nottingham, Lohr and Kerr had a negative and detrimental impact on the service of surgery at Dorn VAMC. In the military we call it fraternization and/or cronyism. The Navy, for example, has court martialed and imprisoned their officers for fraternizing.
Healthcare providers at Dorn are able to come and go as the they please, not needing to place time and leave. A blind eye is turned and there is no support to staff from any of the doctors mentioned. It means that some Dorn doctors consider themselves above the law. Veterans suffer and die as a result of sloppy and careless healthcare.
Dr. Paul B. Kerr was apparently in an accident two years ago. Some at Dorn have questioned Kerr’s ability to properly perform surgery. We’ve said it before, the VA in Washington needs to do a major housecleaning at the Dorn VA Medical Center in Columbia, South Carolina. Where the hell are they?
We are told that senior management in Washington is fully aware of all this. They are wringing their hands, not knowing what to do. Right now, everything is up in the air. Hospital staff has not been informed on what will happen to properly care for all the veterans served by the Dorn facility.
DR. JOANN M. LOHR
People consistently tell us they have never been more embarrassed of the medical system at Dorn than they are today.
Many are upset that Dr. Joann M. Lohr will apparently be practicing medicine again after her involvement in a mistaken amputation. Lohr’s credentials will apparently be reinstated, able once again to accidently amputate perfectly good body parts.
So, if you’re a veteran and are scheduled for surgery on your right leg, but when you wake up to find that your left leg has been “mistakenly” amputated, remember, we warned you.
Dr. Lohr has had numerous failed surgical procedures that resulted in action brought against her that were listed before in prior OIG complaints. Notably these included approximately half of the AV fistulas she placed failing before use.
These failures required patients to have additional surgical procedures due to the need for an operational site for their renal disease. In one particular case, a patient suffered two failed AV fistulas because the veins selected were of inadequate size. This was predictable and inexcusable for any physician.
DOES THE WORD MALPRACTICE COME TO MIND?
This particular patient eventually was forced to have an AV loop graft which should have been the first surgical option based on the sizes collected on vein mapping. The veteran’s health subsequently declined rapidly until he ultimately passed away. Was anyone held accountable for his premature death? You already know the answer.
Was it manslaughter? Apparently, the VA doesn’t think so. Dr. Lohr will soon be seeing patients once again. Another OIG complaint against Dr. Lohr was published describing the amputation of a wrong toe.
If you’re a veteran at the Dorn VAMC and the doctor grabs your toe and begins the conversation saying, “This little piggy stayed at home. This little piggy had roast beef, And this little piggy had none. But this little piggy was amputated and went wee, wee, wee, all the way home!” — Be afraid, be very afraid!
To make matters worse, following this error, Dr. Lohr allegedly went to the patient’s chart (well after the date of procedure) to write a note that she made the decision while in surgery that the third instead of fourth digit needed amputation in an attempt to say this mistaken amputation was intended.
The coverup, or even a coverup attempt is much worse than the actual mistake.
The VA Inspector General stated,
“Although facility and service line leaders completed an initial review of the vascular surgeon’s care, for unknown reasons, leaders failed to address the vascular surgeon’s disregard for patient safety protocols and the undermining of high reliability organization principles. Twelve (12) facility and service line leaders had not taken measures to ensure the vascular surgeon’s future compliance with these protocols and principles.”
This comment defined the administration’s mishandling of the issue in the past and can be used again if Dr. Joann Lohr is allowed to return to practice her brand of medicine on our veterans, despite multiple failures in her practice.
If the VA allows Dr. Lohr to return to practice medicine on our veterans solely because they are being legally strong-armed by a law firm, it sets a dangerous precedent the Veterans Administration will undoubtedly regret down the road.
MilitaryCorruption.com and many healthcare providers at Dorn are in stunned in disbelief that the Veterans Administration is allowing a physician with so many errors in her practice, to be allowed to return as if nothing ever happened simply to avoid a legal battle.
THEY WERE WARNED
In 2021 prior Chief of Staff Bernard Dekoning reprimanded Dr. Joan Lohr for failing to complete a proper consent for a surgical case. No one was aware of this until 2023, when Dr. Lohr was placed on summary suspension.
Interestingly, the letter of reprimand was never entered into Dr. Lohr’s personnel file. Kinda smells like Omura was involved. Even when people try to make the system work, the good-old-boys interfere with due process. It boils down to a basic lack of integrity and personal honor.
Has anyone considered what the veterans are going through? This failure in leadership defies a solemn moral obligation of the VA to provide the upmost standard-of-care for America’s Veterans placing their basic safety in serious jeopardy.
We ask all veterans entering Dorn VAMC, “Why go to war and risk your life, when you can risk your life merely seeking medical care at the Dorn VA Medical Center?
We ask, what kind of vetting process does the VA do for their doctors? Dr. Joann Lohr had multiple malpractice suits and complaints in Ohio before arriving at the Dorn Medical Center.
As we mentioned in our previous article, information about Dr. Joann Lohr can be found by an easy online search for: “Hamilton County Ohio Public Records.”
DESIGNATED NEW DORN DIRECTOR, JOHN F. MERKLE
One contributor said… As a veteran who receives care at the VA, the fact that a failed SES leader like John Merkle was actually selected to lead a much larger and complex VA system like Dorn compared to the Tuscaloosa VAMC is deeply concerning.
The entire VA and VISN 7 (VISN = Veterans Integrated Services Network) leadership must be digging at the bottom of the barrel for Senior Executive Service (SES) leaders.
The VA’s decision install John F. Merkle as the next Director of the Dorn VA Medical Center, even though he has failing record at the smaller Tuscaloosa VAMC, reveals poor decision making and bumbling ineptitude at the highest levels of the Veterans Administration.
No wonder the VA has so many problems. In most organizations, a leader who has multiple substantiated reports of failed leadership is immediately removed from the position and either terminated or moved laterally into a position of less authority.
It’s proof the VA has adopted the military policy of; “SCREW UP to MOVE UP.”
Merkle’s track record tells the story and is a bad omen for veterans patronizing the Dorn VA Medical Center:
- The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) concluded that the multi-level missed opportunities to recognize deficiencies in the Patient Safety Program were in part due to lack of action by facility and VISN leaders.
- Facility leaders failed to fully engage with the Patient Safety Program and did not sufficiently utilize available tools to assess and evaluate programmatic performance.
- The safety of every patient was fractured and could not comprehensively address vulnerabilities that can lead to patient harm.
- A lack of programmatic oversight by facility and VISN leaders resulted in the failure to comply with VHA mandated standards for patient safety including managing and completing JPSR events, RCAs, and a proactive risk assessment.
- A subsequent 2020 OIG CHIP report found that facility leaders had failed to correct the deficiencies identified in the 2019 CHIP report and that “the medical center had no evidence of improvement or movement toward resolution for the four open recommendations related to RCAs from the previous inspection.
- The OIG found the facility responded with a corrective action plan that was ineffective and resulted in repeat findings in the 2020 OIG CHIP report. Likewise, the actions taken in response to the repeat findings were insufficient as evidenced by the RCA failures outlined in the 2021 Issue Brief.
- The OIG found, that by not ensuring an operational Patient Safety Program, facility leaders missed a critical opportunity to promote a culture of safety within the facility. In promoting a culture of safety, leaders must make patient safety an organizational priority and ensure programmatic integrity.
- In an interview with the OIG, the VISN Director described assessing what led to programmatic failures at the facility stating, “you have a facility that has a Patient Safety Program on paper…but it’s not operational.” These so-called “leaders” MUST be held accountable. All veterans and VA employees deserve better, especially at the Dorn and Tuscaloosa Medical Centers.
THE VA SHELL GAME
Everyone believes that David Omura was ostensibly fired for misappropriating COVID bonus money earmarked for the employees of the Dorn VA Medical Center. At least that’s what we were told.
Now it appears that Omura is being rewarded with a new assignment at the Office of Integrated Veteran Care (IVC) and probably a bigger paycheck.
The Under Secretary for Health for Integrated Veteran Care, Dr. Miguel H. LaPuz, sent this message to all IVC employees…
“I am pleased to announce that David L. Omura, DPT, MHA, MS has been detailed to unclassified duties within the VHA Office of Integrated Veteran Care (IVC) as Senior Advisor to the Deputy Assistant Under Secretary for Health (DAUSH) for IVC.
In this role, he will advise on next generation Community Care Network (CCN) contract strategy and provide field expertise. He will also contribute to IVC data strategy and governance, as well as collaborate in leading enterprise scheduling efforts and acquisitions.
Dr. Omura also serves on the VHA Data Governance Council and as Chair of the Data Governance Council’s Workforce Sub-Council, which focuses on VHA efforts on data training. engagement and succession planning.
Prior to this role, Dr. Omura provided oversight and leadership as the Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Columbia VA Health Care System (VAHCS) for over 6 years that included a medical center in Columbia, South Carolina and seven Community-Based Outpatient Clinics that cover two-thirds of the state of South Carolina.
The health care system serves more than 90,000 Veterans, is staffed by more than 2,940 employees and has an operating budget of $842M. The Columbia VAHCS is a 5-star facility among the VA and compared to private sector healthcare systems.
Dr. Omura is a New York native and earned a Master of Science degree in Physical Therapy from Boston University, a Master in Health Care Administration from the University of Florida and a Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Mass General Hospital Institute of Health Professions.
He is a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives and the Federal Asian Pacific American Council. Dr. Omura is a graduate of the VHA Health Care Leadership Development Program and the Federal Executive Institute.
He also serves as an Adjunct Faculty at the University of South Carolina and is actively engaged in community partnerships. Please join us in welcoming Dr. Omura to the IVC team.”
Undersecretary Lapuz thinks that Omura is better than sliced cheese. It surely must be Swiss cheese because the overall picture painted of David Omura is full of holes. Either the Undersecretary is massively ill-informed, or he’s part of the evil cabal attempting to obfuscate the issue in an effort to protect Omura’s floundering career.
His praising of Omura certainly does not tell the whole story about Omura’s antics at Dorn VAMC. And, oh by the way, if the Dorn VAMC is considered a 5-star facility, the VA is drowning in the Egyptian river of, “De-Nile.” By the numbers and quality of communiques we receive, Dorn ranks as the bottom, closer to a 1-star rating.
Omura and his cronies have been accused of a wide range of misconduct involving retaliation, malpractice, fraud, and destroying evidence. This unscrupulous behavior is alleged to include multiple department heads such as… chief of staff, pain management, mental health, primary care, ER, orthopedics and patient advocate.
Several people have contacted us concerning the intentional destruction and failing to file hundreds of complaints against doctors and other staff members at the Dorn VA Medical Center. If that is true, Congress needs to get involved.
The VA tends to look the other way when there are ethical violations and criminal activity. For SES personnel, they love playing a shell game as they are apparently doing by “relocating” Omura and rewarding him for his dubious behavior and failed leadership at Dorn VAMC.
The timing of his departure raises suspicion. Maybe, the VA “relocated” Omura to protect him from Nottingham scandal fallout. At this point, nothing would surprise us about VA management and misconduct.
THE JOSHUA POTTS STORY
The measure of an organization can be measured by how employees are treated (or mistreated). Joshua Potts is a classic example of an excellent VA employee who was either driven to suicide or murdered. His death is highly suspicious to many of his coworkers. Frankly, many don’t believe he committed suicide at all.
Joshua Potts was a Medical Assistant (MA) assigned at Dorn’s Four (4) West for many years. Staff, apparently without a need to know, rifled into Joshua’s medical record. Josh found out his private information had been compromised and sought relief through the appropriate channels at the medical center.
Joshua discovered that asking Dorn VAMC to investigate itself was an exercise in futility which went nowhere. Joshua Potts felt he had no alternative but to file a lawsuit.
Just prior to court, he suddenly turned up dead. Authorities said it was “suicide,” but Josh was black ops and his coworkers fervently state he would never have shot himself, especially in the stomach. The suicide determination continues to be highly suspicious for many of his coworkers and friends who knew him best.
Usually when one of the VA staff dies, there is a memorial page created on the Dorn internal website. Amazingly, there was not even a notice of Joshua’s death. It was like he was never there, like he never existed. The VA wanted everyone at the VA to forget about Joshua Potts.
The failure to give this man some type of recognition for his outstanding work at the medical center has deeply bothered several staff members since his suspicious death on or about Sept. 20, 2018. The shock and horror of losing this wonderful man, affected many people.
Those we have spoken with say Joshua was a brilliant individual. He actually taught cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) techniques to the doctors and was also an exemplary Emergency Medical Technician (EMT).
Joshua Potts was extremely knowledgeable in many disciplines and was one of very few people qualified to transport neonates and infants with heart problems.
By all accounts, Joshua Potts was dedicated to America’s Veterans. It’s sickening to know this is how the VA treated a man that gave his all for the veterans he loved an honored so dearly.
One individual told us that Joshua Potts spent hundreds of dollars every month of his own money providing snacks for the veterans who entered the Dorn VA Medical Center. Joshua Potts should have been recognized for his stellar contribution. He deserved better than he got from Dorn VAMC.
If he fell victim to a criminal act, they surely have burned all the documents which could prove otherwise. Even so, his death should be fully and properly investigated. His departure from this world rates some type of recognition by the Veterans Administration.
According to several people we spoke with, it’s highly doubtful Joshua Potts actually committed suicide. His death for them was more likely a murder, but we will never know if law enforcement does not reopen the case.
How VA employees are mistreated is a warning flag to all veterans patronizing the Dorn VA Medical Center. The way Joshua Potts was treated stands as a harbinger that foreshadows how veterans will be treated seeking medical help at the VA.
CARRYING A CONCEALED WEAPON
IS APPARENTLY NO BIG DEAL AT THE VA
The Manager of Respiratory Care at the Dorn VA Medical Center Pam Sykes, apparently liked carrying a gun around at work. She had a legal permit to carry a concealed weapon, but not on federal property. That’s a no, no.
On top of that, employees say Sykes would frequently discriminate and make racist comments on a daily basis. And, when employees would report her behavior, she would predictably retaliate.
The situation escalated. When what is described as an overbearing manner was combined with illegally carrying a concealed firearm on federal property, a complaint was filed with many VA departments including Nancy Hofstetter at the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection (OAWP).
To no one’s surprise, nothing was done. Four months later, another complaint was filed. Apparently, Dorn management decided they had better do something.
Ten days after the second complaint, Criminal Investigator Chavis E. Jefferson Sr. approached supervisor Pam Sykes to ask her if she had a concealed weapon.
Ms. Sykes produced a 9 millimeter pistol which was loaded. The weapon was seized and Sykes was cited. Her court date was scheduled on or about May 16, 2023.
Officer Jefferson told the complainant that he filed a report with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) to have Ms. Sykes concealed permit revoked. The complainant further shared with Officer Jefferson that Sykes allegedly told other employees she carried a gun and they had better be careful.
The complainant also told VA law enforcement that Ms. Sykes was bragging about how she only received what was tantamount to a parking ticket for carrying her loaded 9 millimeter handgun on federal property. She went back to work as if nothing had happened.
The complainant states she heard from another employee that Sykes allegedly said that if she ever finds out who filed the complaint, that her husband would kill the squealer. Did the VA police ever pursue this threat of performing premeditated murder? No, they were too busy trying to find out how to protect Sykes according to the complainant.
Good grief, talk about a toxic work environment. But, employees were assured that Ms. Sykes would not get off scot-free because the charges were serious and well substantiated. Employees didn’t believe assurances from VA police.
Supervisor Pam Sykes was never removed from her job and was never disciplined that anyone is aware of.
VA police were actually protecting Ms. Sykes. No one is certain that any complaint was filed with SLED to have her conceal-carry permit revoked. That may have been on huge lie perpetrated by the VA police to mollify agitated VA employees.
The complainant further indicated that when VA police discovered another manager was planning to attend the “trial” addressing her federal violation, VA police contacted that manager to falsely say the court date had been cancelled. This was a lie, ostensibly initiated to protect Ms. Sykes.
Furthermore, the VA failed to report the loaded-gun incident to the Licensing Board which enabled her to renew her Respiratory Care Practitioner’s (RCP) license. Additionally, Ms. Sykes may have lied on her renewal form because the form clearly asks if you have ever been arrested or disciplined. Some suspect she didn’t tell the truth on her application.
Instead of removing Pan Sykes for illegally carrying around a loaded firearm on in a federal installation, senior management at the VA just looked the other way and the VA police did what they could to provide cover. It’s Dorn’s version of the “deep state.”
Frightened employees were reminded of their emergency keys on their computer keyboard to ask for help. No mention of what veteran patients were supposed to do if one of the supervisors had a meltdown and began randomly firing at people in Dorn VAMC.
Ironically, Pam Sykes is the person who signs off on safety protocols for other employees. Many employees have told us there is a mafia, thug-like atmosphere which Dorn managers foster and promote.
A supervisor is caught with a loaded firearm and virtually nothing happens. Such behavior is OK at Dorn VAMC. And if the weapon was actually fired, can you imagine how fast the VA would burn all complaints that warned them of the situation? Nothing was done and nothing was learned. It’s business as usual at the Dorn wild west show.
SUMMARY and COMMENT:
The Dorn VA Medical Center is screw ups are beyond description. It seems that virtually everyone at Dorn VAMC is unhappy. The managers, the employees and most of all, the poor veterans who rely on Dorn for their medical care. The management is the worst we have ever encountered in our fifty years of observing the military medical system.
It appears the VA is such a behemoth that few people have the skills or the courage to manage it properly. People need to be fired and if the replacement screws up, then they also should be fired until you find someone who takes their job seriously.
Our words to warn the veterans being “served” by the Dorn VA Medical Center are not an overstatement. There truly is danger when you enter the Dorn VA Medical Center for care. The management is just that bad.
Obviously, there are good and bad doctors, just as there are good and bad police officers. The difficult task is to avoid throwing the baby out with the bath water. Keep the good ones and fire the bad ones. It’s really very simply when you think about it.
We fear the Dorn VA Medical Center may be the tip of the iceberg. Other VA medical centers may be as bad or worse. At this juncture, we can’t imaging anything being worse than the Dorn VA Medical Center however.
As one of our staff members laughingly said, the only person who will get top-notch medical care at the Dorn VA Medical Center is Hunter Biden when he overdoses on cocaine at the White House. Whoops, we take it back. His cocaine was seized and like his laptop probably disappeared.
Veterans are suffering mistaken amputations, then adding insult to injury the doctor who did it will practicing medicine once again. All of us need to stay focused on people who have to suffer the brunt of the poor management and leadership in the VA healthcare system, the Veterans.
Mr. VA Secretary, is it too much to ask for you to get personally involved? The old adage applies: if you want the job done right, sometimes you have to do it yourself. Roll up your sleeves and hop a flight to Columbia to clean up that mess. Don’t do it because we asked, do it because the veterans are being hurt by failed leadership and horrible mismanagement.
Get rid of the bad people, and honor and treasure the good ones. Embrace that simple philosophy and fewer veterans (or employees) will die before it’s there time.
If you have an appointment at Dorn VAMC for a runny nose, then when you exit the hospital heading for your car in the parking lot you notice something is wrong. Look down. If you only have nine toes, you’ll know what happened.
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