Second Memphis VA employee moved amid wait list scandal

The scandal at the Memphis VA continues to widen.


MEMPHIS, December 14, 2016 – A second manager has been moved from the Memphis VA Medical Center’s Department under fire for creating secret electronic waiting lists, and now Congress is asking questions.

According to an internal memo at the Memphis VA Medical Center, Dr. Mary Fruitt has been moved, “Effective December 11, 2016 Dr. Mary Fruit has been assigned as the Director Workplace Violence Program within the office of the Chief of Staff.”

Dr. Fruitt is currently the Chief of Mental Health. The Psychosocial Rehabilitation and Recovery Center (PRRC) at the Memphis VA Medical Center is currently under fire after the revelation that the department maintained a secret electronic wait list.

Veterans in need of complex mental health treatment some times waited more than four hundred days and upcoming unscheduled consultations, rather than being scheduled, were manually removed from the system to manipulate wait time data.

According to one email, the secret wait list was at the direction of Dr. Fruitt (PRRC is part of the mental health department): “The PRRC is currently using an EWL (Electronic Waiting List) to manage consults (for I believe the next 120 days) per Dr. (Mary) Fruit’s (chief of mental health) directive and secondary to staff shortage. We will begin contacting veterans in order of consult placement date when this staffing shortage is stabilized and we are able to ensure both safety and and quality of care in services offered.”

Dr. Fruitt becomes the second manager implicated in the scandal to be moved by the Memphis VA Medical Center. Last week CDN reported that Dr. Elizabeth Harcourt, the head of PRRC, had been moved.

When CDN asked Willie Logan, public affairs officer for the Memphis VA Medical Center, for a comment, Logan directed CDN to a letter the hospital sent to Congress.

“Beginning this week, Mary Fruit, M.D., Chief of Mental Health Service, will serve as Director of the Workplace Violence Prevention Program (WVPP). Dr. Fruit will fill the vacancy of the program’s Director who has accepted a National-level position with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Dr. Fruit’s many years of experience in behavioral health and as a social worker make her a perfect fit to oversee the WVPP.” The letter stated. “As Program Director, Dr. Fruit will be responsible for managing all of the administrative and clinical aspects of the WVPP, which includes assuming complete professional responsibility for clinical assessment findings, Veterans care decisions, and documentation. We anticipate this to be a smooth transition to ensure there are no gaps in services in the WVPP. The Chief Nurse for Mental Health will serve as Interim Chief of Mental Health Service while recruitment is taking place to fill the position.”

Sean Higgins, an employee of the Memphis VA Medical Center and frequent whistleblower, said the move by Dr. Fruitt amounted to a promotion.

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