Director of troubled Denver VA hospital to retire

DENVER (AP) — The director of the veterans health care system for Denver and eastern Colorado is retiring, days after a report that a Veterans Affairs sleep clinic in Denver had a secret waiting list.

Lynette Roff is stepping down, a spokesman for the VA said Tuesday. No other details were immediately released.

Former VA employee Tommy Belinski obtained a paper waiting list — separate from the official computerized list — that could have been used to hide lengthy waits for appointments at the sleep clinic, KUSA-TV in Denver reported last week. The list had more than 500 names on it, Belinski said.

The VA has said officials discovered an “unofficial list” in 2012 and abolished it. Dan Warvi, a spokesman for the VA in Denver, said in an email to The Associated Press Tuesday that no secret list exists.

Roff didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment made through a spokesman.

Investigators following up on whistleblower complaints have discovered large-scale improprieties in the way hospitals and clinics around the country scheduled veterans for appointments. Eight months ago, an audit found that 1,600 new patients had to wait 90 days or longer for appointments at eastern Colorado VA medical facilities. It wasn’t clear if the sleep clinic was included in the audit.

The Colorado facilities were included in a nationwide audit on a single day in May. All told, more than 57,000 patients faced delays of 90 days or longer. The review also indicated that 13 percent of schedulers reported being told by supervisors to falsify appointment schedules to make patient waits appear shorter.

In July, the VA announced it planned to fire two supervisors and discipline four others in Colorado and Wyoming after they were accused of falsifying health care data.

A veterans hospital under construction in the Denver suburb of Aurora has encountered massive cost overruns and delays, but it wasn’t clear if Roff had any role in planning or supervising the project.

Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., welcomed Roff’s departure, saying veterans deserve better leadership. “She did the right thing by leaving,” he said.

Coffman has asked the VA to investigate the Denver-based eastern Colorado system.

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., described Roff’s departure as an opportunity and urged the VA to find a leader to push for better care for veterans.

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