Dr. David Houlihan was known as the “Candy Man” at the Department of Veterans Affairs medical center in Tomah, Wisconsin. But that nickname for the hospital’s chief of staff had nothing to do with Halloween treats. Houlihan was known among local veterans as the man to go to if you wanted opiates and other drugs.
Reveal uncovered Houlihan’s practices and the skyrocketing narcotics prescription rates under his tenure in an investigation published last January, which also noted that the government had investigated, and dismissed, the problem.
In late breaking news today, Wisconsin media noted that Houlihan — put on leave in the wake of Reveal’s investigation — is being fired, effective Nov. 9.
A statement from the VA to lawmakers said his dismissal followed the VA’s probe of the psychiatrist’s clinical practice and his “administrative interactions with subordinates and alleged retaliatory behavior.”
A culture of fear permeated the hospital, staff told Reveal. They said Houlihan regularly threatened those who disagreed with him and followed through with sometimes public humiliation, even demotions. In a June 2013 email, Houlihan took on a physician assistant who had told two veterans he planned to cut back on their narcotics.
“I understand you may have issues with controlled medications. That is your issue,” Houlihan wrote. “I take personal issue with you changing meds on my Veterans.”
“I expect this practice to stop immediately,” he added.
As of Nov. 9, it is instead Houlihan’s practice in Tomah that will have stopped.