Dayton VA Medical Center Director Glenn Costie during a roundtable discussion with Cox Media Group Ohio. TY GREENLEES / STAFF
Photo: Ty Greenlees
Photo: Ty Greenlees

Dayton VA leader steps down following 33-year career

Costie, 56, of Bellbrook, who capped a 33-year career inside the Department of Veterans Affairs, held the $183,000-a-year post since 2011 where he oversaw a rise in the staffing levels, a nearly doubling of the budget and increasing patient caseloads.

In the midst of heightened scrutiny nationally about the VA health care system, during Costie’s tenure in Dayton he was called to two troubled VA centers in Phoenix and Cincinnati to temporarily provide oversight.

Dr. Thomas Hardy, Dayton VA chief of staff and a Vietnam veteran, will become interim director in Dayton until a successor to Costie is chosen sometime next year.

The outgoing director attributed a “relationship-based culture” focused on meeting both veterans and staff needs as a reason he pushed for “transformation” within the Dayton VA and urged that approach throughout the VA health care system nationwide.

“There are a lot of initiatives trying to work on improving how we value our veterans and I proposed the model that we use here as the most effective way to do that especially for a long-term strategy,” he said Friday during an interview at the Dayton VA.

He came to the Dayton VA in the midst of a dental hygiene scandal caused when a dentist allegedly failed to change gloves between patients, archives show.

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He also was a key figure in the selection of the Dayton VA Medical Center for a future mostly privately funded $25 million VA national archive and the renovation of two project buildings on the campus.

Under his tenure, the Dayton VA’s staff grew to more than 2,400 employees, a 14 percent increase compared to fiscal year 2011. The annual budget nearly doubled to $454.1 million this fiscal year versus $250.4 million in fiscal year 2011, figures show.

The number of patients grew to 40,886 in the last fiscal year, an 8 percent jump since 2012.

Average new patient appointment wait times for primary care dropped to 2.8 days from 4.7 days while established patient wait times rose to 1.4 days from 1.1 days since 2014, Dayton VA figures show.

“One of the biggest strategies we had was just in recruitment and today we are fully staffed with all of our primary care positions filled,” he said. “That really has allowed us to drive same day access for care.”

A senior citizen housing center on the West Dayton campus, a new outpatient clinic in Richmond, Ind., and a simulation center to train medical personnel, were among the projects under his tenure in Dayton. This week, the campus broke ground on a privately funded $6.5 million Fisher House, a lodging facility for patients and their families.

As a scandal over patient appointment wait times spread from Phoenix to VA medical centers nationwide, Washington lawmakers poured money into the VA’s budget to hire thousands of staff and meet the health care needs of returning Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans.

In Phoenix, hundreds of staff were added to deal with a patient backlog and lengthy waits for appointments. Costie was sent to Cincinnati in the midst of a high-level staff shake-up.

Costie faced challenges in Dayton, too. In 2015, a whistle blower employee brought attention to a patient backlog in the pulmonary clinic. The VA reported “scheduling irregularities” when a prior employee used an informal list to set up appointments.

At the time, Costie said 150 patients had died before they could be seen for appointments, but a VA panel investigation determined none of the patients died because of a lack of care. The employees who were involved in the situation faced “some of the most severe accountability measures we can take,” Costie has said in a prior interview.

He spoke Friday against continued calls to privatize the VA health care system, saying the private sector does not have the infrastructure the VA has today to treat veterans, train new medical staff, and research medical discoveries veterans need most.

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“I don’t think the private sector has the infrastructure to take on the care of our veterans” in total, he said. “We already see delays in places when we try to purchase care in the community that is for a small part of our veteran population.”

The Dayton VA, whose predecessor was one of the first three veteran hospitals in the nation, marked its 150th anniversary this year.

That history was one reason the campus was chosen for a future VA national archive and history center.

Costie said a private fund-raising campaign primarily targeting corporate donors was underway to fund the renovations. Relying on VA alone for funding could take as long as 20 years to complete because it’s competing against patient care projects, he said.

“… With the support of the community we can significantly reduce that time frame and get the buildings renovated a lot quicker,” he said. The VA has set aside about $8 million for repairs to a former VA national headquarters and a clubhouse on the historic campus as part of the project, he said.

The archive filled with historic artifacts in three warehouses in the Washington, D.C., area could be brought to Dayton before renovations finish on the buildings, he said.

The VA expects to have at least 20 archive employees in Dayton and Washington, D.C.

The Dayton VA, which serves 16 counties, has a main campus in West Dayton and four outpatient clinics in Middletown, Springfield, Lima, and Richmond, Ind.

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