The Pittsburgh Tribune Review just reported on matters I've been covering for the last three weeks with this story.
In an action he acknowledged was highly unusual, the chairman of a congressional subcommittee personally intervened to restore the job of a top physician in the Veterans Affairs Pittsburgh Health System.
Dr. Anna Chacko, head of the radiology department in the veterans health agency, went back to work after Rep. Brad Miller, D-Tenn., wrote a letter to VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki. He said "there is something very wrong in the management of the VAPHS."
According to the May 15 letter, Chacko was placed on involuntary leave and barred from entering her Oakland office at the VA's University Drive site unless accompanied by a police escort.
The story goes on to recount a lot of the things I wrote in this piece. Dr. Anna Chacko became the head of radiology at the Pittsburgh VA in October of last year. Within weeks, people within the hospital, and especially within her department, began complaining about her. An investigative board was convened in March and in April the board recommended that she be removed. Dr. Chacko challenged the results and it was at this point that she reached out to Congressman Brad Miller of North Carolina. Congressman Miller had investigated the same Pittsburgh VA on a separate matter involving the willful destruction of a rare strand of legionella. In that investigation, Miller implicated a Dr. Mona Melham, a high ranking official in the Pittsburgh VA.
On May 15th, Congressman Miller sent a letter to the head of the VA system, General Eric Shinseki. In that letter, Congressman Miller defended Dr. Anna Chacko. In his estimation, Congressman Miller felt that Dr. Melham was targeting Dr. Chacko and that there were serious questions about management in the Pittsburgh VA. Most importantly, Congressman Miller felt that "an internal report that claimed the department's performance had "begun to suffer under Chacko's leadership" was unfounded." I would take serious issue with this characterization. According to sources I have spoken with inside the Pittsburgh VA, Dr. Chacko is described as a tyrant. She threatens legal resident aliens with calling immigration if they cross her, she refuses to do her clinical duties, lies systematically, and bullies her subordinates. Furthermore, her behavior is the subject of another suit by another colleague, Kristi George, at her previous employer St. James Hospital.
An employee at St. James Healthcare has filed a lawsuit against the hospital claiming the new director of radiology has been defaming her at work.
Kristi George alleges that Dr. Anna Chacko has been making false statements about her in an attempt to get her fired, according to documents filed in Butte district court.
One source at the Pittsburgh VA told me they reached out anonymously to Congressman Miller's office while all of this unfolded and gave the office a list of complaints about Dr. Chacko. The question then becomes just how much investigation Congressman Miller did before determining that it was unfounded that Dr. Chacko had created a poor working environment at the Pittsburgh VA. If you've been reading this series you know I have referred to Dr. Chacko as a Psychopath and I have laid out a case that she is a "disruptive physician". So, clearly, I would take issue with his characterization that it was unfounded that performance had suffered under her leadership. A call has been placed to his office and I am waiting for a return phone call. If and when there is a return call, I will follow up.
Frankly, it's not exactly clear what Congressman Miller's jurisdiction here is. He's a Congressman from North Carolina. In fact, he starts the letter by acknowledging that what he was doing was extraordinary. He chairs a sub committee, Health and Sciences, that has jurisidiction over the VA, but that doesn't necessarily mean that he has jurisdiction over hiring decisions at the Pittsburgh VA. Also, like with me, Dr. Chacko refused to speak with Mr. Roche citing lawyer's recommendations. That's ironic since she had no trouble being quoted for this article written about a year ago. Of course, that was largely positive towards her, though I'm sure that's merely a coincidence.
Finally, Congressman Miller's office never returned repeated messages when I tried to reach them and so it's only now weeks after I published my piece that the office even acknowledged playing a role in getting Dr. Chacko her job back. I will update as soon as calls to General Shinseki's office and Congressman Miller's office are returned.
Here's the definitive dossier of Dr. Chacko.