Scott Guermonprez, who took over the troubled VA Medical Center at Northport just a year ago, is resigning effective July 12, according to an email sent Friday to the facility’s employees, the content of which was confirmed by Rep. Tom Suozzi.
Guermonprez — who presided over a Veterans Affairs medical facility that was beset by failing infrastructure, staff infighting, and complaints of dirty conditions, but continues to draw deep loyalty among its clients — said his departure was due to “personal and family reasons.”
His acting chief of staff, Dr. Cathy Cruise, will take over as acting director, according to the email, a copy of which was obtained by Newsday.
Suozzi, the Glen Cove Democrat, said he was told of the developments by Guermonprez on Thursday.
Cruise will be the facility’s fourth director in a year and a half, including Philip Moschitta, who retired in April 2017.
Cruise has served as Northport’s associate chief of staff for rehabilitation and extended care, and was the medical director of the VA’s community living centers.
“It’s a shame,’ Suozzi said, “because Scott was making some progress and was fixing some problems that had been vexing the VA for some time, and that we’ve had so much turnover in such a short period of time.”
“But I understand that family comes first,” he added.
Suozzi said he hoped to meet with Cruise “as soon as possible” for assurances that she would press forward toward addressing Northport’s challenges.
Guermonprez presided over wholesale changes in Northport’s top management, which saw the ouster of its medical, nursing and engineering directors within months of his arrival.
But Guermonprez, who served nine months as director of the Albany VA Medical Center before arriving on Long Island, struggled with morale, staff and infrastructure problems throughout his brief tenure here.
Neither Guermonprez nor Cruise could be reached for comment late Friday.
A survey of employee attitudes at Northport conducted last August was rife with complaints of favoritism, bullying, retaliation and other personnel issues – complaints that continued to surface during Newsday interviews with workers there throughout his tenure.
Guermonprez has also faced criticism that his plans to address Northport’s chronic problems, including crumbling facades, leaking roofs, flooded pedestrian tunnels, and rutted roads and sidewalks, have been mostly recycled ideas from prior hospital administrations that lacked clear funding mechanisms.
For example, Guermonprez’s frequently cited plans to raze two decades-ago abandoned buildings there were first floated years before he arrived. No progress toward that goal has been announced.
And he has struggled to win the confidence of some of Long Island’s veterans' advocates, who have complained that he rarely sought their advice.
“I had been trying to get him to come to one of the six meetings we’ve had since last June, and have been unable to,” said Morris Miller, president of the executive board of Voluntary Services, which represents a number of veterans' organizations that volunteer at the medical center.
“There had always been an open-door policy, and that ended when he got there,” Miller said.