Ernst says meeting with VA was “emotionally charged” on hiring doctor with revoked license

WASHINGTON - Iowa Senator Joni Ernst says she had an "emotionally charged" meeting with an official from the VA about the agency hiring a surgeon who had a history of malpractice claims and a revoked license from another state.

"I did sit down with the Deputy Secretary of the VA in my office yesterday. This was an instance where I was very emotionally charged," Senator Ernst said in a conference call from Washington with WQAD on Wednesday, December 6.

Rick Hopkins of Donahue, Iowa was one of several veterans operated on by Dr. John Schneider.

The 65-year old who worked on a dairy farm died in August after undergoing four surgeries in four weeks. He suffered many  complications after an initial removal of a brain tumor.

"There was just a cascade of complications, I mean we couldn't catch our breath because it was one thing after another and it honestly felt they were being reactive rather than proactive in his care," said Amy McIntire, Hopkins' daughter who is also a nurse in  Davenport.

Dr. John Schneider was her father's surgeon. He was hired by the Iowa City VA, even though they knew about the malpractice lawsuits and his medical license revocation in Wyoming after a man died.

"He disclosed that and the Iowa City Va hired him anyway which goes against their policy. We are asking more questions about that," Sen. Ernst said.

"I would not want to have surgery by that physician," Sen. Ernst said.

McIntire told WQAD this week that the hiring of the doctor with a record of red flags to operate on her father and other vets is inexcusable.

"What I do know the VA hired him illegally. He should have never had his hands on my father. I think the VA should be held accountable," said McIntire.

Senator Ernst and Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley say they have also sent a letter to the VA "demanding answers" in regards to the hiring.

WQAD asked Sen. Grassley if someone should be fired in connection with the hiring.

"This a bad situation with the VA. Somebody, if their head doesn't roll, nothing gets changed. So, firing might be the appropriate thing but I'm going to have to wait til we get all the information," he said.