Manager says low staffing causing health risks at Dallas V.A. hospital

One Dallas V.A. hospital manager says a shortage of specialized staff to clean medical treatment areas could set up a health risk inside the V.A. hospital.

Staffing in environmental medical services has consistently been short at the V.A. Until July, the staffing shortage was made up by bringing people in on overtime. But that’s no longer the case.

George Ellis, an 8-year employee, says it’s about saving money and believes vets care could be compromised.

“Biohazard waste is piling up, suites are not cleaned or suites are not cleaned or manned by employees on the weekend,” Ellis said.

Ellis, who has filed for whistleblower protection, says some weekends staffing is half of the 35 people supposed to be working. Sometimes it’s even less than half.

Ellis has complained all the way to the secretary of the Veterans Administration. He said the local V.A. is more concerned with saving overtime dollars opposed to the care and cleanliness of the environment.

V.A. North Texas Chief of Staff Dr. Jeff Hastings said a new a new supervisor for environmental management services felt overtime dollars could be better spent.

 “She made an excellent argument to say, here’s how much money you’re spending in overtime, why don’t we hire more people instead?” Hastings said.

Hastings said the hospital is in the hiring process and has offered 35 people jobs in environmental medical services and he’s not aware of any delayed medical procedures.

Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson says she has a monthly conference with leadership at the V.A. about this and other issues.

“We have gotten a few complaints over time,” Johnson said. “Any situation where you have that much turmoil at the bottom needs to be corrected from the top.”

Hastings said shortages should be solved when new hires finally happen and that it’s not just about overtime but about a better use of resources.