MEMPHIS, December 1, 2016 – The head of the mental health department at the Memphis VA Medical Center is moving on, less than two weeks after it was revealed that her department had a secret electronic waiting list.
“Effective November 14, 2016, Elizabeth Harcourt, LCSW has been assigned as the Operations Access Lead within the office of Ambulatory Care Operations Director – Group Practice Manager (ACOD-GPM) for 90 days,” according to an internal memo at the Memphis VA Medical Center.
Harcourt was head of the Psychosocial Rehabilitation and Recovery Center (PRRC) which maintained a secret electronic wait list where veterans waited as long as 402 days for a consultation, a story first reported by CDN last month.
Shortly after CDN’s report, the story was picked up by the local Fox station in Memphis as well.
Both stories came out shortly before this memo.
According to internal emails, PRRC, which treats complex mental health issues, had significant backlogs forcing veterans to wait, sometimes more than four hundred days, and employees of the department manually removed the veterans from the official system.
In an internal email, Harcourt blamed the backlog on a lack of staff, an assertion which Brandon Coleman, a whistleblower at the Phoenix VA Medical Center, said was an excuse rather than a reason.
Willie Logan, public affairs officer for the Memphis VA Medical Center denied Harcourt’s move was in response to the revelation that PRRC had a secret electronic waiting list.
“Information in the attached document is not related to the story posted on your site or aired by the local FOX network,” Logan said in an email.
Though the memo stated Harcourt started at her new position on November 14, before CDN’s report came out, Sean Higgins, an employee and whistleblower at the Memphis VA Medical Center, said the move was in response to CDN’s report.
“They can back date that stuff,” Higgins said.
Higgins said that following the reports the veterans who were on the secret wait list were all moved to the VA CHOICE Program; the CHOICE Program allows veterans to go outside the VA system and receive treatment if the VA is unable to provide medical services within thirty days of a request.
Higgins said the move by Harcourt to head the Ambulatory Care Operations Director is a promotion.
According to a source in the hospital, Harcourt was still working in the PRRC as late as the last week of November.