The hospital is the sixth-largest employer in Buncombe County with about 1,350 employees.
Hitch had been the acting director since Dr. Susan Pendergrass left the medical center April 13 to take a job with the VA in the Northwest. She had been there since May 2006.
Curl said the decision was made after the VA central office told the medical center it could be several more months before a new director is selected. She did not know the reasons for the delay.
She said that because of the delay, the medical center leadership decided to have Hitch return to his job as associate director, where he could focus on managing the organization's budget, which has tightened because of the economy.
“When we knew it was going to be a longer race, we needed to trade out for fresh legs,” Curl said. “We need him (Hitch) to be hands-on in the budget.”
North Carolina has four VA hospitals, including the facility in Asheville, and nine outpatient centers. In all, they treat about 200,000 patients.
The VA hospital in Asheville serves veterans in 19 counties.