Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

$28.7 million infusion helps James A. Haley VA Medical Center make budget

TAMPA — The James A. Haley VA Medical Center closed out its tumultuous fiscal year Friday with a balanced budget after getting a $28.7 million cash infusion from a Department of Veterans Affairs reserve fund.

Haley's projected deficit was as high at $47.5 million in March, and the hospital's budget records as late as July outlined "emergency measures" to reduce costs and avert a year-end shortfall.

VA spokeswoman Mary Kay Hollingsworth has steadfastly maintained that patient care was never curtailed at Haley as the facility, one of the nation's largest veterans hospitals, reduced costs during 2011.

"As stewards of resources, we will continue to improve efficiencies and reduce costs — especially in areas of acquisitions, fee care, indirect and administrative services while improving the delivery of high quality and timely health care . . . to the Veterans we serve," Hollingsworth said in a statement on Friday.

Haley officials have refused requests by the St. Petersburg Times to interview budget officials, hospital leadership or even public affairs staffers for this and other budget stories.

Reports about Haley's budget difficulties have caught the attention of Congress. Last month, the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee sent a letter to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki referring to Haley's budget woes.

Referring to 111 unfilled positions and cuts to a number of Haley departments, the Sept. 15 letter by chairman Patty Murray, D-Wash., and ranking member Richard Burr, R-N.C., said, "Each of these actions, while fiscally sound, could have an adverse impact on patient care quality."

The senators asked the VA if it could ensure meeting budget needs at facilities nationally without drawing upon reserve funds, noting 2011 billing collections by the agency had been far below projections.

Shinseki's office has not yet responded to the letter.

Paul Sullivan, executive director of Veterans for Common Sense, said "unconscionable delays" nationally in veterans obtaining VA health care and benefits points to an overall need for more money.

"The long delays veterans suffer before they can see a doctor or receive disability payments, combined with the tragic suicide crisis, are strong evidence VA needs more funding from Congress plus greater support from the American public," Sullivan said.

Hollingsworth said Haley funding will increase 6 percent in fiscal 2012 to $552 million and Haley officials do not expect any operating deficit in 2012 after three years of deficits necessitating a year-end bailout.

One previous challenge for Haley, officials have said, is that Haley treated many Orlando-area veterans. But now the VA will open an Orlando hospital in 2012, which will decrease budget stress on Haley, they say.

In fiscal 2011, Haley officials worked frantically to reduce costs after regional VA officials initially told them their year-end bailout would be capped at $14.8 million. The VA later discarded the cap.

A July budget memo, obtained by the Times, showed that budget cuts included $1.5 million from lab services, $130,000 from mental health programs and $92,000 in education funds. Overtime and travel were reduced and maintenance deferred, documents show.

Cuts included a suspension of patient referrals to outside medical providers except in emergencies. Such "fee basis" referrals are done when Haley is too busy or if it does not offer a particular service.

More than 12,800 veterans were authorized to receive fee basis care outside Haley in 2011, the VA says.

A July 20 memo to Haley's new director, Kathleen Fogarty, from Haley's fiscal services office said "fee basis expenditures will be limited to those only authorized as emergency." Asked how many patients have been rejected in a bid to get fee basis care, Haley officials responded in an e-mail, "zero patients."

Hollingsworth called documents obtained by the Times "unofficial information" and took issue with the word "cuts" in describing reduced spending, noting money is constantly shifted as workload and costs go up and down.

"These are not cuts to services but redistribution of funding," she said in an e-mail.

Reach William R. Levesque at or (813) 226-3432.

Been rejected? Talk to us

If you are a Haley patient who has had "fee basis" medical treatment rejected, canceled or postponed by the VA in 2011, please contact William R. Levesque at or (813) 226-3432.

$28.7 million infusion helps James A. Haley VA Medical Center make budget 10/01/11 [Last modified: Saturday, October 1, 2011 11:42pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. PolitiFact Florida: How would Florida fare in Graham-Cassidy health care bill?


    Following a sharp rebuke by late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., hit the airwaves to defend his bill that would undo much of the Affordable Care Act.

    Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La.
  2. What ever happened to the Zika epidemic?


    Remember Zika?

    The last time Gov. Rick Scott warned Floridians about the potential threat of the mosquito-borne virus was in July, when he urged residents to still be vigilant against bug bites and standing water. At the time, doctors and researchers were bracing for what was supposed to be another active summer …

    Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, responsible for transmitting Zika, sit in a petri dish at the Fiocruz Institute in Recife, Brazil. Cases of the virus are down dramatically this year in Florida, the result of awareness efforts, experts say. But the public, they add, should not let its guard down. [Associated Press]
  3. Pinellas licensing board needs cash. Will the county give it any?

    Local Government

    LARGO –– The grand jury that said Pinellas County should not take over the troubled construction licensing board also said the county should bail out the agency before it goes broke in 2018.

    Pinellas County Commission chair Janet Long isn't keen on the idea of the county loaning money to keep the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board afloat. The county has no say over the independent agency, which could run out of funding in 2018. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  4. Is the Bundt cake back? How retro baked goods are becoming trendy again


    Once there were grunts and slumps, buckles and brown betties. Oh, and pandowdies and sonkers. In the olden days, people routinely made angel food cakes, tomato soup cakes and hummingbird cakes. These were not Duncan Hines mixes, but rather confections made from scratch following yellowed and stained recipes in your …

    Nothing Bundt Cakes in Tampa offers a variety of options, from tiny “bundtinis” and 10-inch cakes that serve 18 to 20 people. Core flavors include lemon, marble, red velvet and chocolate-chocolate chip, with featured flavors like confetti.
  5. Craig Butz, executive director of Pepin Academies and former professional hockey player, died in a crash with a boat Saturday. His daughter Teagan, 4, remained in critical condition Sunday afternoon. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   TIMES, 2013]