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Haley VA center gets new chief

After multiple problems with surgeries and operating room procedures, the Veterans Affairs Department has removed the director of its busiest hospital.

Forest Farley Jr., for two years the director of the James A. Haley VA Medical Center in Tampa, has been reassigned to the regional office in St. Petersburg, the VA said Wednesday in a brief statement.

VA spokesman John Pickens declined to discuss the reasons for the shift, and Farley could not be reached.

The reassignment follows nearly a year of internal and congressional scrutiny of the hospital, which serves more than 400,000 veterans in the region and contains one of four special treatment centers for soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Swamped by a burgeoning caseload, Haley managers routinely delayed operations because surgeons were unavailable, the VA's inspector general reported in October.

In 2002, a patient died because of medical error. In August, an outbreak of flies temporarily closed operating rooms. And consultants brought in by the VA reported that "the demand for services exceeded the medical center's capacity, signaling a rapidly approaching crisis."

The inspector general also alleged that Haley had overpaid the University of South Florida for providing heart surgeons to the VA hospital.

Haley management had begun to alleviate some of the shortcomings, the inspector general noted.

Two operating rooms were being added, bringing the total to 10. A scheduler also was hired to increase the flow of operations.

Farley, a Vietnam veteran and USF graduate, had previously run the VA hospital in Lexington, Ky. His new duties at the regional office, based at Bay Pines, will often focus on construction, the VA statement said.

"His knowledge and experience as a director at two VA medical centers will be beneficial in working with construction and disaster preparedness," according to the statement.

DeWayne Hamlin, Haley's associate director, was appointed as acting director, the VA said.

Stephen Nohlgren can be reached at (727) 893-8442 or nohlgren@sptimes.com.

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