The chief of Department of Veterans Affairs facilities in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico is taking over as director of the Bay Pines VA Medical Center in St. Petersburg, the agency announced Monday.
Wanda Mims, 53, director of the VA's Caribbean Health Care System since 2009, will take over Bay Pines' top job as soon as her replacement is selected, Bay Pines spokeswoman Faith Belcher said.
Bay Pines is the nation's fourth-largest veterans hospital and serves 97,000 veterans with a budget of about $600 million. Bay Pines' 3,800 employees oversee numerous VA facilities from Naples to Palm Harbor.
Bay Pines director Wallace Hopkins retired April 1 after 35 years with the agency.
Mims has worked for the VA for 14 years and has held positions at agency facilities in Ohio, Virginia and Kentucky. She served four years in the Marine Corps after her enlistment at 17 and has a master's degree in business administration.
Mims comes to a facility that has faced allegations in recent years that it retaliated against employees who filed workplace discrimination complaints.
A federal judge in November 2009 issued a strong rebuke of Bay Pines officials after four employees, including three doctors, won a $3.7 million verdict over allegations that Bay Pines illegally retaliated against them. The four women had filed several workplace complaints, including allegations that their gender hindered advancement at Bay Pines.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Tom McCoun ordered Bay Pines leaders, including Hopkins, to undergo remedial instruction on workplace retaliation.
The judge, who also barred Bay Pines from further discrimination or retaliation against its employees, noted that none of Bay Pines' leaders was dismissed or reprimanded after the verdict.
"Indeed, it appears that no changes have been made at all at Bay Pines VA in response to the verdicts in this case," McCoun said in his order.
William R. Levesque can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3432.