Dr. Samuel Foote speaks out after VA Director is fired

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- The director of the Phoenix VA Health Care System, Sharon Helman, was fired on Monday amid turmoil at the VA Hospital.

Dr. Samuel Foote was the whistle-blower in this case and brought to light secret wait lists and delays in treatment that may have led to the deaths of 40 veterans.

3TV spoke with Dr. Foote for his reaction to the firing. "I think it's like getting a thorn removed from your thumb. You're not happy the thorn is in there in the first place but it feels great when it's out," said Foote.

Dr. Foote describes how he felt when he learned Helman was fired. "I had heard it was going to be tomorrow but I have a feeling that with the Ferguson thing they thought hey this is a great day to announce it," said Dr. Foote.

The 19 year VA clinic director and retired internist says he would like to see the problem fixed. "But I think the first step in solving a problem is admitting you have one and I think we've admitted we have one and six months ago we weren't talking about the national shortage," said Foote.

He's talking about a shortage in physicians, nurses and physician's assistants. Dr. Foote says the VA hospital isn't coming clean on where it stands on staffing. "They'll never give you the net gain or change so they're still not being transparent and that's what really upsets me," he said.

Helman has been on administrative leave for nearly seven months. She is the fifth senior executive fired or forced to resign recently but Dr. Foote says more firings should come and one in the way of Chief of Staff Dr. Darren Deering. Foote says Deering helped cover up the problems at the hospital.