Hutson named new director at southern Illinois VA

MARION, Ill. (AP) — A southern Illinois Veterans Affairs medical center where surgeries once were halted after a series of questioned patient deaths has a new director.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs said Donald Hutson on Dec. 15 will assume oversight of the Marion medical center, which serving nearly 44,000 veterans each year from portions of Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky. He replaces Paul Bockelman, who has been appointed network director in the VA’s office in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Hutson has more than 28 years of experience in health care administration, including 21 years in the Army.

The Marion site had been under intense scrutiny after August 2007, when a surgeon resigned three days after a patient bled to death following gallbladder surgery. All inpatient surgeries were suspended there within a month, and the site’s director, chief of staff, surgical chief and anesthesiologist were moved to other positions, placed on leave or quit.

Investigators later found at least nine deaths between October 2006 and March 2007 resulted from substandard care, and another 10 patients died after receiving questionable care that complicated their health.

But in 2011, the Marion medical center was cleared to resume in-patient surgeries with low complication risks, including appendectomies, hernia repair and other minimally invasive operations. Ambulatory surgical procedures have been in operation at the medical center since November 2008.

Hutson has served as chief executive officer at hospitals in Oxford, Miss., and Union City, Tenn., as well as chief operating officer at Winn Army Community Hospital in Fort Steward, Ga., and the Army’s health clinic in Tokyo. He has a master’s degree in health administration from Baylor University and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Mississippi.

Hutson tells the (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan that he intends to the VA’s efforts to pare a backlog of disability compensation claims, which the VA said it has reduced from 611,000 to 400,835, or 34 percent, since they peaked in March.

The Marion VA recently has opened a 16,000-square-foot, $3.9 million rehabilitation center intended to focus on providing treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, physical therapy, mental-health treatment, prosthetics and services for victims of sexual abuse. The center also has a career center and a wave pool for aquatic rehab.

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