WASHINGTON – The head of the Veterans Affairs (search) health care system resigned Monday amid problems with a multimillion-dollar computer system the agency was testing at a VA hospital in Florida.
Robert Roswell (search), undersecretary for the VA health administration, submitted his resignation to President Bush, said Cynthia Church, a VA spokeswoman.
VA made the announcement in a brief news release that did not include comment from VA Secretary Anthony Principi (search).
Last Wednesday, Principi apologized to members of the House Appropriations Committee for the problems with the $472 million computer project at Bay Pines, Fla.
An inspector general's report found that management troubles at Bay Pines had been reported as early as January 2001, but were not addressed. Bay Pines is the fifth busiest VA hospital in the United States.
The computer system, which is to be used at VA hospitals nationwide, was supposed to integrate the hospital's purchasing, inventory, budgeting and billing systems. But it was rushed online before employees were properly trained, causing the hospital to have trouble keeping track of its bills and supplies, leading to delays in surgeries. Other management problems exacerbated the computer system troubles.
The federal government has spent almost $249 million on the project.
"I apologize for the situation at Bay Pines and take full responsibility for it," Principi said last week. He later said he was not made aware of the system's problems and would have addressed them had that happened. He said he would "hold my leadership accountable as I will myself for that."
Although he didn't name Roswell, Appropriations Chairman Bill Young (search), R-Fla., said at last Wednesday's hearing that the undersecretary should have had "intimate knowledge of the long-standing issues and problems at Bay Pines Medical Center."
Before Bush nominated him for the undersecretary position, Roswell was based at Bay Pines, overseeing the VA's health care network for Florida and Puerto Rico.
He has been with the Veterans Affairs Department since 1976. He also has overseen the VA's proposal to restructure its health care facilities nationally to shift services where veterans live and shutter those that are unused or underused.
Dr. Jonathan B. Perlin (search), deputy undersecretary for health, becomes acting undersecretary while a national search is conducted.