Acting Manchester VA chief is named the new directorBy KEVIN LANDRIGAN
New Hampshire Union Leader
February 24. 2018 12:55AM
MANCHESTER — The Manchester VA Medical Center got a permanent chief executive who said this move should give veterans and staff “assurance” that changes to the culture and more collaboration in the delivery of care to veterans will continue.
The Department of Veterans Affairs confirmed Alfred A. Montoya Jr. Friday afternoon as the new director to the post he’s held on an acting basis since last July.
“We are going to work on the culture of the Manchester VA working in tandem with the task force and one of the things I am really excited about is the opportunity to lead an organization of 800 people that are extremely dedicated,” Montoya told the Union Leader during a telephone interview Friday.
Montoya is a U.S. Air Force veteran having served for 10 years as a Russian cryptologic linguist.
He served as an instructor of Technology and Military Science and gave operational training on an airframe system that disrupts enemy command and control communications.
“I am a veteran myself. This is personal,” Montoya said.
The Manchester VA serves 33,000 veterans from eastern New Hampshire with an annual operating budget of $141 million.
“I think what this does is it gives our veterans and staff some assurance that the leader they have grown accustomed to is going to be here leading this organization and leading by example as well,” Montoya said.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., praised the appointment but vowed to keep making sure improvements at the Manchester VA continue.
“New Hampshire’s veterans deserve the best quality and most accessible healthcare possible, and with the appointment of Director Montoya to serve permanently in this leadership position, I’m glad to see the Manchester VA get the stability and direction it needs to effectively serve our veteran community,” Shaheen said.
“I’ll continue to work with Director Montoya, as well as the VA New Hampshire VISION 2025 Task Force, to make sure the VA fully evaluates and implements measures that will deliver a full range of care services to Granite State veterans.”
Congressman Annie Kuster, D-N.H., called Montoya a “steadying hand” but said that challenges remain.
“Veterans in New Hampshire have been failed by the systemic challenges they have faced in accessing quality care at the Manchester VA Medical Center,” Kuster said.
Montoya became interim director following a shakeup at the very top following disclosures by 11 physician and medical employee whistleblowers about “Third World” care in Manchester.
After the Boston Globe Spotlight Team published an expose on those charges last July, VA Secretary David Shulkin removed Director Danielle Ocker and Chief of Staff James Schlosser and installed Montoya, then the White River Junction, Vt., VA Medical Director, as the acting boss.
Montoya was pleased at the turnout at town halls the Manchester VA has sponsored but knows needed improvements will take some time.
“My sense is that we are making a difference. We are really using the team approach to moving the organization forward,” Montoya said.
“I know the state of the Manchester VA did not happen overnight. It is going to take some time to turn the organization around and with all my interactions with staff, veterans, stakeholders, we are working to get the message out and be transparent.”
Since Montoya took over, the Manchester VA signed an affiliation contract with Easterseals, brought renowned New England Baptist Hospital neurosurgeon Chima Ohaegbulam to the team of consultants and worked on forging operating agreements with medical device inventor Dean Kamen.
They reached a first-of-its-kind community partnership with Catholic Medical Center, allowing Manchester VA providers to use CMC space for endoscopic procedures. Gov. Chris Sununu signed an executive order letting VA physicians licensed outside New Hampshire practice at community hospitals in the state.
The Manchester VA Medical Center is comprised of the main campus in Manchester and four community-based outpatient clinics in Conway, Portsmouth, Somersworth, and Tilton. The Portsmouth clinic is located at Pease Air National Guard Base.