VA director breaks silence on hospital issues

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Deborah Amdur took over as medical director of the Phoenix VA in December 2015. (Source: KPHO/KTVK) Deborah Amdur took over as medical director of the Phoenix VA in December 2015. (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
"As you say, staff did not feel comfortable bringing forward these issues, and, in fact, they are very fearful that there might be some punishment if they did so," Amdur acknowledged during our interview. (Source: KPHO/KTVK) "As you say, staff did not feel comfortable bringing forward these issues, and, in fact, they are very fearful that there might be some punishment if they did so," Amdur acknowledged during our interview. (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
A exterior view of the VA medical center in Phoenix (Source: KPHO/KTVK) A exterior view of the VA medical center in Phoenix (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

For weeks now we have been talking to whistleblowers and investigating problem after problem from inside the troubled Phoenix VA. Now, the medical director, Deborah Amdur, is addressing the claims we've uncovered. She said things are getting better little by little. She also said she has become aware of specific issues, in part because of my reports, and is taking immediate action.

"I have nothing to hide here," Amdur told me during a candid sit-down interview Friday. "If we have an issue, I want to know."

[Special section: VA hospital troubles]

Amdur said she takes the sacred trust of veterans very seriously.

For months, I've been reporting on long wait times, alleged medical mismanagement and concern about the cares our veterans are -- or are not -- receiving. My sources were not only veterans but insiders at the Phoenix VA, as well.

"As you say, staff did not feel comfortable bringing forward these issues, and, in fact, they are very fearful that there might be some punishment if they did so," Amdur acknowledged. "I worked very, very hard to reverse that."

She said transparency is a top priority, not only for the veterans she serves but also for the employees who initially came forward to me, trusting me with critical information that led her to take immediate action.

"Since hearing that story [about the Veteran Choice Program], we did a very careful review of the processes. I have a team working overtime and on this weekend to make sure that all of those veterans get on the Choice list," Amdur said.

[READ: Program created to help veterans is reportedly failing them]

She also said she has ensured the hospital has 24/7 mental health coverage and is currently recruiting more social workers and psychiatrists. 

While she said things are improving, it's going to take time patience.

"We are working very hard to ensure that every veteran connected to this health care system has a positive experience," Amdur, who took over the troubled hospital in December 2015, said. "We have work to do. There's no question about that, but I have a very dedicated staff who are veterans themselves, and I feel are all poised to continue our forward movement."

[RELATED: Phoenix VA announces new medical center director (Nov. 20, 2015)]

Copyright 2016 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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