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Tomah VA Director Fired After Over-Prescription Reports

VA Medical Center in Tomah, Wisconsin.
VA Medical Center in Tomah, Wisconsin.

TOMAH, Wis. -- The director of the Tomah Veterans Affairs Medical Center has been fired, becoming the second top official ousted amid reports of over-medication practices at the facility.

Acting director John Rohrer sent an email to employees Wednesday stating only that Mario DeSanctis is no longer employed by the VA, the La Crosse Tribune reported Thursday.

The VA did not immediately say whether say whether DeSanctis was fired or quit, but U.S. Rep. Ron Kind's office told the newspaper that Kind was informed he had been "let go." DeSanctis was reassigned last March to another position outside the medical center, at the Great Lakes Health Care System network office.

Tomah VA spokesman Matthew Gowan said the search for a new director would begin immediately.

DeSanctis, an Air Force veteran who took over leadership of the west-central Wisconsin center in 2012, is the second Tomah VA official to depart amid reports of excessive opioid prescriptions being written there.

Last month, the VA's inspector general said deficiencies in care led to the mixed drug toxicity death last year of Jason Simcakoski, a 35-year-old Marine Corps veteran from Stevens Point. The investigation found that psychiatrists did not discuss with him or his family the hazards of a synthetic opiate he was prescribed, acted too slowly when he was found unresponsive, and did not have anti-overdose medicine on hand. One physician who attended to him was fired.

Citing staff shortages, the Tomah VA announced last week it would temporarily close its inpatient psychiatric unit, halt psychiatric admissions to a residential treatment center and permanently curtail urgent care hours. In the meantime, any Tomah area veteran requiring psychiatric treatment will be transferred to VA facilities in Madison and Milwaukee, or to non-VA hospitals.

A VA report earlier this year concluded that patients at Tomah facility were more likely than patients at other VA hospitals to receive high doses of pain killers. The report also said there was an atmosphere of fear among staff members that affected patient care.

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