It's a time-honored strategy of those seeking to avoid press coverage to push information you want the world to ignore into the weekend news cycle to avoid scrutiny. It shouldn't be surprising that Atlanta VA Medical Center this week announced a town hall meeting scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 27 from 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. (The Georgia-Tennessee game is scheduled for noon that day in Athens.)
Medical Center director Leslie Wiggins has a reputation for avoiding the press and not engaging with reporters. Even as scandals erupted this year across the VA system and leadership in Washington has said VA needs to be more open to rebuild trust, Wiggins has rarely granted interviews. Holding the meeting on a busy college football Saturday will result in a lower profile event.
The town hall meeting is part of a national effort ordered by new VA Secretary Robert McDonald who is trying to redirect the agency's efforts toward veterans and rebuild trust with veterans and the public. At a press conference earlier this month, McDonald spoke about the need for VA to be more transparent and open. He even gave out his cell phone number to reporters and told people to call him Bob.
A quick search shows that Atlanta's is one of only a handful of hospitals nationwide that is not holding its town hall meeting on a weekday when the public and press are more likely to give the issue their full attention. More than 160 VA facilities have scheduled town halls across the country this month and one accounting by a veterans advocacy website shows that only six had scheduled their town halls on the weekend. Atlanta's medical center is the only facility in the southeast region VISN 7 to hold its town hall on a weekend day.
Wiggins has not responded to a request for comment sent to her office on Tuesday. A medical center spokesman said 88 of the 100 slots have already been taken. For information about the town hall or to RSVP to hold a slot contact Elizabeth Cox at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 404-321-6111, extension 6243.
If you can't make it to this month's town hall there will be another held on October 25 -- a Saturday.