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Miami VA Gets New Director

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Paul Russo, director of the Miami VA Healthcare System.  (Source: Miami VA Healthcare System)

Paul Russo, director of the Miami VA Healthcare System. (Source: Miami VA Healthcare System)

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Beginning Monday, Miami’s VA Healthcare System will be under new leadership.

Paul Russo has been tapped as the new director.

Russo has served Veterans in seven medical centers during his nearly 30 years of service in the Veterans Health Administration, most recently as director of the Salisbury, North Carolina VA Medical Center. Previous to that appointment, he served as associate director at the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center from December 2004 to July 2010.

“His strong leadership qualities, experience, and previous relationships with both the West Palm Beach VA and Miami VA will be valuable assets for the facility, the employees and volunteers, and most importantly, for the Veterans we are honored to serve,” said Nevin M. Weaver, Director of the Director of the VA Sunshine Healthcare Network.

The Miami VA Healthcare System provides healthcare to nearly 60,000 veterans living in South Florida with facilities in Broward County, Deerfield Beach, Hollywood, Homestead, Key Largo, Key West, and Pembroke Pines. It has an annual operating budget of $478 million.

Russo replaces acting director Charleen Szabo who replaced director Mary Berrocal in November 2011.  Berrocal came under fire after improper colonoscopy procedures were revealed in 2009.

The scandal broke when VA investigators learned that staffers were rinsing the colonoscopy equipment instead of steaming and sterilizing it as required by the manufacturer.

Of the 3,000 vets who were exposed, blood tests showed five later tested positive for HIV, eights for hepatitis C, and one for hepatitis B.

VA officials say there is not way to know for certain whether the improperly cleaned equipment transmitted the diseases. The infected patients have been promised free lifetime care.

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