New York Times
V.A. Hospital Leader in Wisconsin Fired Over High Painkiller Doses
By Associated Press
October 31, 2015

Psychiatrist David Houlihan

Psychiatrist David Houlihan

MADISON, Wis. — The chief of staff at a Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Wisconsin, who was nicknamed “candy man” by some patients for allegedly handing out excess narcotics, will be fired, officials said.

The administrator, David Houlihan, was placed on leave in January while the Department of Veterans Affairs investigated allegations of overprescribing narcotic pain medications and retaliatory behavior at the medical center in Tomah, Wis.

The department told Wisconsin’s congressional delegation that based on results of an investigation, Dr. Houlihan, who is a psychiatrist, was notified on Friday that he would be fired effective Nov. 9. Dr. Houlihan’s clinical privileges were also revoked.

He is the second top official to be fired after the investigation into practices at the hospital. The center’s director, Mario DeSanctis, was fired in September.

In August, the inspector general of Veterans Affairs said deficiencies in care led to the mixed-drug toxicity death last year of Jason Simcakoski, a 35-year-old Marine Corps veteran. The investigation found that psychiatrists did not discuss with him or his family the hazards of a synthetic opiate he was prescribed, acted too slowly when he was found unresponsive, and did not have anti-overdose medicine on hand. One physician who attended to him was fired.

A department report this year concluded that patients at Tomah were more likely than patients at other Veterans Affairs hospitals to receive high doses of painkillers. The report said there was an atmosphere of fear among staff members that affected patient care.

The report said the Tomah facility was called “Candy Land” by some veterans for the reportedly liberal prescribing practices under Dr. Houlihan.