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Phoenix VA director leaving for new job in veterans health system

RimaAnn Nelson (Facebook Photo/Phoenix VA Health Care System)

PHOENIX – After three years as director of the Phoenix VA medical center, RimaAnn Nelson is leaving for another position within the national health care system for veterans.

Nelson will take over as director of the Veterans Integrated Service Network in Cincinnati on Oct. 27, the VA announced Thursday.

In her new role, she’ll be director of the VA system covering Ohio, Indiana and Michigan.

Dr. Alyshia Smith, Phoenix’s associate director for patient care services, will serve as interim director until Nelson’s successor is hired.

Nelson has been working in the VA system since 1994, when she joined as a student nurse. She went on to become director in St. Louis and the Philippines before taking over at Phoenix’ Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center in October 2016.

The Phoenix VA was a focal point of a 2014 nationwide scandal of patient neglect, secret lists and falsified records involving excessive wait times.

During her tenure in Phoenix, the number of veterans served increased by 6.7% in two years and outpatient visits went up by 5.9%, according to a VA press release.

The release said wait times dropped to eight days for non-urgent primary care appointments and four days for non-urgent mental health care.

“We have really been working hard to change the perception of what’s going on here,” Nelson told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News in March.

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