Woke VA official who pushed to remove WWII kiss photo ‘mismanaged’ St. Louis hospital where vets were reportedly exposed to HIV

Woke VA official who pushed to remove WWII kiss photo ‘mismanaged’ St. Louis hospital where vets were reportedly exposed to HIV

She’s the kiss of death for hospitals.

The woke Veterans Affairs official who ordered hospitals take down the iconic Times Square V-J-Day kissing photo previously mismanaged a Missouri hospital so badly, she was condemned by both Democrats and Republicans alike.

Smooch-bashing VA bigwig RimaAnn Nelson headed the department’s St. Louis hospital for more than three years, during which time the facility was rated worst in the country — with patients allegedly left in their feces for days, and more than 1,800 of our nation’s heroes being exposed to HIV and hepatitis from unsterilized dental equipment, reports said.

“What happened in the dental clinic shouldn’t have ever happened,” an employee told an ensuing congressional investigation.

“If people were taking their jobs seriously, not passing the buck and pointing the finger, none of this would have happened.”

RimaAnn Nelson is pictured

RimaAnn Nelson took charge of the Veterans Affairs’ St. Louis Healthcare System in late 2009. VA veterans affairs

But, despite these shortcomings, Nelson’s tenure at the Veterans Affairs’ St. Louis Healthcare System only ended when she shunted off to a VA hospital in the Philippines, according to the Daily Caller. The gig included a government-funded home and at $160,000 salary in the low-cost-of-living country.

Nelson took charge of the St. Louis VA hospital in late 2009. A few months later, federal investigators found the dental equipment “visibly dirty post-sterilization” and condemned staff for not being familiar with the department’s sterilization guidance.

When they returned to the hospital two years later, those issues were still not addressed, as administrators “did not provide the necessary level of oversight and did not routinely verify the adequacy of some practices or the accuracy of data and status reports,” according to Arizona Central.

Though the foul-up potentially exposed veterans to ailments like HIV and hepatitis, none were infected, the University of Arizona’s Cronkite News reports.

But Nelson’s tumultuous tenure was not over, as employees would go on to tell a local news station that veterans were left sitting in feces for days at a time and nurses said they were retaliated against when they would speak out about the conditions, according to the Caller.

The iconic photo.

Nelson has recently come under fire for instructing VA hospitals to take down the iconic World War II Times Square kiss photo. Time & Life Pictures/Getty Image

By 2011, a survey of all 126 VA hospitals around the nation ranked St. Louis last in patient satisfaction, according to the Daily Caller.

That same year, the hospital was forced to stop performing surgeries for more than a month after surgical trays were found to be rusted. Nelson said at the time staffers could not figure out what caused the erosion.

Still, Nelson insists she was not forced out of her position at the hospital, and even went as far as to say her superiors wanted her to stay on.

“The only reason I’m doing this is personal,” she told the Caller, saying she applied to the job because her retired parents were spending half a year in the Philippines and she wanted to be closer to them.

“Other than that, why would I move to do something completely different and move to the benefit side when I’m a clinical person?”

Here’s the true story behind the iconic V-J Day kiss pic

As first dates go, Rita Petry thought this one was pretty great: a beautiful summer afternoon in the city, a matinee at Radio City Music Hall, drinks after, followed by a passionate, soon-to-be-iconic kiss.

Well, maybe not the kiss: Her handsome young suitor, it turns out, planted that on another woman.

Such is the incredible story behind one of the most romantic and enduring photos of the 20th century — and one of our most compelling mysteries.

Since Aug. 14, 1945, the identities of the smooching sailor and the nurse in Alfred Eisenstaedt’s Times Square V-J Day photograph have never been determined — until the publication, last week, of the book “The Kissing Sailor: The Mystery Behind the Photo that Ended World War II.”

There’s another person in the frame, one nobody even knew to look for, who makes the image that much more poignant: Rita Petry, the future wife of that sailor, George Mendonsa.


But after three years in the Philippines, Nelson was again given a different position — this time to lead a VA hospital in Phoenix, Ariz., where her appointment was met with swift backlash.

The late Sen. John McCain expressed his concerns about reports of “troubling mismanagement” in St. Louis and Nelson’s “total lack of experience” implementing a VA program, Arizona Central reports.

Then-Democrat Rep. Kyrsten Sinema and former Rep. Matt Salmon, a Republican, even wrote a letter to then-President Obama asking for her appointment to be blocked.

“Under Ms. Nelson’s tenure, the [St. Louis] hospital closed twice for unsafe and unsanitary conditions, and was ranked last in the country for patient satisfaction out of 126 VA medical centers,” they wrote, according to Arizona Central.

Still, Nelson insisted to the Daily Caller she left the St. Louis VA better than she found it.

She said the improper sterilization issues were already going on when she took over operations at the medical facility, and said she immediately took steps to remedy the issue — including by having the exposed vets get blood tests and by shutting down the dental clinic.

“Employees came to me and brought issues to me and soon as I became aware of them, I took action,” she told Cronkite News.

“If I cannot guarantee you quality and safety when you walk into your VA, I’m going to shut things down,” she vowed.

A copy of the memo.

Nelson wrote in a memo last week that displaying the photo “could be

Nelson wrote in a memo last week that displaying the photo “could be construed as a tacit endorsement of the inappropriate behavior it depicts.”

Nelson is now under fire for sending out a memo to VA hospitals across the country instructing them to remove from agency building the iconic photo of a sailor passionately kissing a woman in a nurse’s outfit in Times Square at the end of World War II.

The photo was deemed “inappropriate behavior” by VA higher-ups because it “depicts a non-consensual act.”

Displaying it in VA hospitals “could be construed as a tacit endorsement of the inappropriate behavior it depicts,” wrote Nelson, now agency’s assistant undersecretary for Health for Operations, in a Feb. 29 memo to staffers around the country.

But her memo apparently blind-sided VA Secretary Denis McDonough, who very publicly reversed the edict on X on Tuesday morning — after seemingly learning of it through a tweet.

Post emails sent to Nelson at the VA seeking comment Wednesday bounced back, and her work phone was not set up to take messages.

With Post wires.


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