Montana VA Health Director to Resign

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – The director of the Veterans Affairs Montana Health Care System plans to resign after 16 months on the job, saying she wants to spend more time with her family, officials said Thursday.

Christine Gregory, who was appointed in February 2013 to oversee the system that provides health care services for Montana veterans, will step down at the end of June, VA officials said in a statement.

“Her decision to retire is a personal one motivated by a desire to spend time with her husband, children and grandchildren some 1,200 miles away,” the statement said.

VA spokesman Randy Martin did not return a call or email for comment. A call made to Gregory’s office after business hours rang unanswered.

The announcement comes after a federal investigation found problems nationwide in the VA health care system that provides medical care to 6 ½ million people annually. The problems include allegations of medical care and misconduct, including an average 115-day wait for an appointment at the VA medical center in Phoenix.

A report released this month by the VA inspector general ranked the Montana VA in the bottom eight in wait times for specialty care, primary care and mental health treatment.

The Montana system was ranked in the bottom three in employee satisfaction and in the bottom 10 for its high rate of turnover among registered nurses.

However, the inspector general report rated the system high in patient satisfaction.

VA Montana Congressional liaison Gail Wilkerson said in response last week that the system is taking steps to address the deficiencies, but is awaiting results from a national audit to address wait times.

Also last week, a group of Montana veterans told U.S. Rep. Steve Daines that they have been frustrated by long wait times and bureaucratic red tape when seeking health care services from the VA.

The VA facility at Fort Harrison outside of Helena cares for 30,270 patients, employs 908 people and has a $222 million annual budget.

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