PITTSBURGH (AP) — The director of the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System and a regional director each received five-figure performance bonuses during a deadly outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease, a newspaper reported Thursday. CEO Terry Gerigk Wolf received a $12,924 bonus and regional director Michael Moreland received a $15,619 bonus, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Both received a base pay of $179,700 for the 2011 fiscal year.
“Unfortunately, this looks like more proof of VA’s well-documented reluctance to hold employees and managers accountable. VA owes us all — especially the families of those who died — an explanation as to why the department awarded these bonuses,” Rep. Jeff Miller, a Florida Republican and chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, told the newspaper.
A report by the Veterans Affairs’ Office of the Inspector General on Tuesday found that widespread management problems contributed to failures in detecting and managing the outbreak. The report does not name or assign blame to any specific VA official or staff member.
The Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in Pittsburgh sickened as many as 21 patients and was linked to five deaths from February 2011 to November 2012. Wolf told the Tribune-Review in an interview that she called the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention when VA officials suspected a problem.
In response to questions about the bonuses, the Tribune-Review reported, national VA spokesman Mark Ballesteros sent a statement underscoring the VA’s commitment “to providing the safe, high-quality care our veterans have earned and deserve.” The statement did not address the bonuses.
VA Pittsburgh officials in March introduced a nearly $11 million plan to address water temperature concerns and map the entire plumbing systems at its facilities.
The plan calls for installation of mixing valves on all showerheads and faucets to allow high temperatures that can kill Legionella, the bacteria that causes the disease, then cool down the water before it leaves the faucet. The project is expected to be completed by Aug. 31.