Pre Introduction: This piece was supposed to go up this evening on the web site Big Government. I hope it will soon but in the meantime, here it is in it's entirety. The piece is being run in conjunction with the release of a letter sent by Congressman Brad Miller to General Eric Shinseki on behalf of Dr. Anna Chacko on May 15th, 2009.
Dr. Chacko spent six years at Lahey Clinic in the Boston suburb of Burlington. When she was fired from there, security had to forcibly carry her out all while Dr. Chacko screamed
Kiss my big Indian Ass(Dr. Chacko is of Indian descent)
After Lahey Clinic, Dr. Chacko spent about a year at the BostonUniversity until she was removed after complaints of sexual harrassment to human resources.
From there, Dr. Chacko moved to St. James Hospital in Butte, Mt. ashead of radiology in July of 2007. Dr. Chacko replaced the three radiologists there. The three radiologists, Drs. William Driscoll, Jesse Cole, and Dennis Wright, had a combined 70 years of service to St. James. Prior to her arrival, St. James CEO, James Kiser, often referred to the radiology department as its "savior" because itsconsistent seven figure bottom line profitability almost singlehandedly kept the entire hospital profitable. Dr. Chacko left St. James fifteen months later in October of 2009, and she took all thenew radiologists with her. In the interim, no less than four lawsuits were filed in which she was mentioned prominently. The radiology department, once the savior, was now deep in the red. In fact, thehospital was on the verge of collapse and they were about to default on lease payments for millions of dollars worth of radiology equipment that Dr. Chacko herself ordered.
Despite this, Dr. Chacko was able to land a plumb job as headofradiology at the Pittsbugh VA and started there in October of 2008.
Attached is a letter dated May 15th, 2009.
Senate Letter 2009-05-19 -
The letter is from Congressman Brad Miller of North Carolina's 13th district and it is addressed to General Eric Shinseki, the head of the Veteran's Administration. The letter is regarding a personnel issue at the Pittsburgh VA about a Dr. Anna Chacko. I have had this letter in my possession since the beginning of September. I have been under strict orders not to release it until a couple days back. I've decided to release said letter onto Big Government and have it be the center piece of the first of what I plan on making a series of articles about Dr. Chacko here.
This letter, dated May 15, 2009, was sent by Congressman Miller on behalf of Dr. Anna Chacko. In March of this year, Dr. Chacko was put in front of an adminstrative investigative board at the Pittsburgh VA to determine if she should be removed from her post as head of the radiology department.
Dr. Chacko arrived at the Pittsburgh VA in October of 2008. Almost immediately, staff began making formal complaints about Dr. Chacko. One doctor, Dr. Tanuja Kanderi, complained that Dr. Chacko had called her other employer, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and made disparaging statements about her to the administration there. Dr. Chacko routinely refused to do her required clinical work. Dr. Chacko went so far as to implement a rule that forbade chit chat and mandated that all members of the radiology department only be allowed to speak on matters related to their jobs.Several members of the radiology department were recent legal resident aliens. Dr. Chacko would threaten them with calls to immigration if the "crossed her". The environment described to me by a source in the radiology department was "the department was divided and at war with itself"
In fact, what I've just relayed was part of the sworn testimony at the administrative investigative board hearing that convened in March. In fact, the Pittsburgh VA was determined to remove Dr. Chacko and was in the final stages of doing so if fate, Congressman Brad Miller, and General Shinseki hadn't stepped in.
In April, Dr. Chacko hired a lawyer. The lawyer determined that the investigative administrative board had failed to give Dr. Chacko her "due process" and the results were thrown out. The Pittsburgh VA was in the process of convening a Professional Standards Board. That was scheduled to convene on May 21, 2009. It also had the potential of removing Dr. Chacko. It never convened.
Instead, Dr. Chacko reached out to Congressman Miller. He sent said letter to General Shinseki. Then, within weeks, word came down from Shinseki's office to the administration at the Pittsburgh VA to cease proceedings to remove Dr. Chacko and restore her as head of radiology.Congressman Brad Miller is from North Carolina. The Pittsburgh VA is in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, of course. It's not entirely clear what jurisdiction he had in this matter. He is a member of the House Science and Technology Committee, which has some oversight over the VA system, but that doesn't give him any oversight into personnel matters at a VA hospital that isn't even in his district. In fact, here's how Miller begins his letter.
I do not ordinarily regard a personnel matter in the executive branch as a proper subject of congressional oversight
Congressman Miller and his staff haven't responded to numerous contacts by me in regards to this matter, including a phone call and email yesterday to his office. In fact, he only verified writing the letter to Walter Roche Jr. of the Pittsburgh Tribune. He never did explain to Mr. Roche what his jurisdiction in this matter is.In the letter, Congressman Miller immediately blames Dr. Mona Melham for the issues surrounding this matter. That's not surprising. About a year prior, Congressman Miller lead an investigation into the same Pittsburgh VA regarding the willful destruction of a rare strand of legionella. (legionella is an interesting if you will disease) The conclusion of that investigation put much of the blame for this destruction upon Dr. Melham.
The tenor of the letter paints a picture of management at the Pittsburgh VA that is incompetent, corrupt, and chaotic. At one point, Miller says this.
there is something very wrong in the management of the VAPHS (VAPHS is the acronym for the hospital involved)
He accuses the management of having a myopic goal of getting rid of Dr. Chacko. Both sources that testified at the original board vehemently disagree with this characterization. Instead, they point to a pattern of behavior by Dr. Chacko that makes her individual that's simply unsuited to continue to work at the Pittsburgh VA.
Dr. Chacko was ordered to complete a management training course and then on August 1st, she came back to work. Her behavior became even more extreme following her return. She even more routinely refused to do her clinical work. In fact, often radiologists would have to involve the head of the Pittsburgh VA, Terri Wolfe, to force Dr. Chacko to do her clinical work.
According to a source in the department, Dr. Chacko also began to make a series of complaints about members of the staff. Almost always these same people were also making complaints about Dr. Chacko.
I wrote my first article about Dr. Chacko on September 2. The day following my eighth piece, Dr. Chacko was again put on indefinite administrative leave. I can confirm that an investigative administrative board was again held. Both of the same sources confirmed that they again testified and they both characterize the testimony as largely mirroring the original testimony in March. Neither Congressman Miller nor General Shinseki has returned repeated requests for information on this matter including most recently yesterday.
Because they haven't, I don't know how much either knew about Dr. Chacko before one wrote a letter on behalf and the other overrode the decision of a local hospital. A simple google search would have revealed plenty. There are four articles about Dr. Chacko from Butte, Mt., where she served as head of radiology at St. James Hospital from July 2007-September of 2008.
The first article recounts how two radiologists with a combined sixty years of service at St. James were let go to bring in Dr. Chacko to head the department. The second recounts how Dr. Chacko filed suit against another radiologist named Jesse Cole because she alleged he threatened her. A third story talks about a lawsuit by the former radiology manager at St. James, Kristi George, in which George claimed that Dr. Chacko lied about her, disparaged her to colleagues in an attempt to have George fired. The final article, from September of 2008, recounts how Dr. Chacko would be leaving St. James AND take all the radiologists in the department with her. Again, two radiologists with sixty years of combined service were removed so she could step in AND she was gone less than two years later. In my opinion, those articles should have been a major red flag.
Furthermore, Dr. Chacko, now 64, has worked at the Boston University Medical Center in Boston, St. James Hospital in Butte, Mt., and the Pittsburgh VA all since the end of 2006. That's a peculiar work history for someone that age and should have been another red flag. Given the accusations against her, there should have been all sorts of red flags for both Miller and Shinseki before injected themselves into this matter.
Here's how a source described my contribution to the story.All
of us are very grateful to you for what you have done. If it were not for your articles the senior VA adm in Washington would have not realized what she isBesides an obvious attempt to stroke my ego, that statement also reveals that those in D.C. clearly didn't do their homework before the injected themselves. I am not the head of H.R. at the VA. As such, it's not my job to show the administration that their personnel decisions at the Pittsburgh VA were misguided.
By now, it should be clear to all that neither Congressman Miller, General Shinseki, or Dr. Anna Chacko ever wanted this letter to come to light. If they had their way, all of this would have occurred and no one in the general public would have known.
In fact, the story of how I received this letter adds the last layer to this story. Upon her return, Dr. Chacko showed this letter to an individual she thought she could trust. (I don't know their identity) She couldn't and eventually the letter wound up in my hands. I was under strict orders not to release because my source feared that Dr. Chacko would know who betrayed her and take reprisal. Dr. Chacko showed this letter to the individual in the context of a power play. According to a source, words to the effect of
see I can get a Congressman to write the head of the VA on my behalf so don't cross mewere used. I don't know how much responsibility Congressman Miller feels for writing the letter (since he refuses to speak to me), but he should know that this letter was used by Dr. Chacko as a tool of intimidation. Furthermore, because Dr. Chacko challenged the results of the original investigative board, she was given transcripts of all the testimony. As such, when she came back, she knew who in the department testified against her and of course, she treated them with an extra venom. (again, the same two sources confirmed that as well) I don't know if General Shinseki had done the math on all of these calculations, however, by sending her back, he unwittingly gave her a tool that she used.
Mind you, Dr. Chacko is 64. Her career spans several decades and includes stints in the military, she reached the rank of Colonel. (Often she directed colleagues to call her Colonel) As I unfold this story on Big Government, it will add even more context to the decision by both Miller and Shinseki. In Chicago, we call this CLOUT. In Chicago, it means cronies getting cushy jobs in the water, parks, and sanitation department. In so doing, those that know what they're doing are passed over and move on. Incompetents then become in charge of the city's infrastructure, and that's why the city is now falling apart. Dr. Chacko had clout and everyone else in the Pittsburgh VA didn't. As such, she wasn't removed and everyone else suffered. In fact, the Pittsburgh VA has suffered. I've been told that almost everyone in the department began to put their resume out there upon her return. It's what happens when those in power misuse their power. It's what happens when they inject themselves where they don't belong without having all the facts.
I'm always amused when someone claims that our VA system is a model for government run health care. Dr. Chacko is the poster child of what happens in the VA. It's this sort of clout that corrupts the system.
For a full dossier of Dr. Anna Chacko, check out this piece.