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Not all VA health care news is bad

Tahlequah Daily Press - 6/20/2018

June 20--In recent years, several health care facilities of Veterans Affairs have received ugly ink.

The VA hospital in Washington, D.C., was reported to have serious deficiencies in March, a veteran with a broken foot was turned away from a VA hospital in Seattle in 2015, records were altered at a Colorado VA hospital. The Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center in Muskogee did not escape the critical spotlight, taking heat over the 2013 hiring of a psychiatrist with a checkered past who started a sexual relationship with a patient.

But Jim Wilson, who sits on the Veteran and Family Advisory Council, wants the public to know that feedback from veterans treated at the Montgomery VA Medical Center is overwhelmingly positive.

"The VA gets beat up on, but it is being misrepresented," Wilson said. "There are some indicators where we could do better, but they only receive about 400 of the 15-page long surveys per year from about 33,000 patients. Those long surveys are only returned when someone has a beef."

Wilson, a veteran himself, said patient appreciation of VA health care exceeds 99 percent.

"We interview these guys, and you couldn't pry that health care away from them," Wilson said. "It is a pretty good deal with the VA. It is managed care, and people who use it realize that."

Nita McClellan, public affairs officer for the Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System, was on her way to a ribbon cutting in Tulsa on Tuesday afternoon. She said there is plenty of good news associated with the VA, particularly in the east Oklahoma region.

"The ribbon cutting is for the expansion of the call center and mental health services," McClellan said. "We had call centers in Muskogee and in our Tulsa clinic, but we have leased other floors. It will handle all calls for veterans in the Eastern Oklahoma region."

The space has been increased from 10,600 square feet on the first floor of the Guaranty office building in Tulsa to 30,570 square feet on the first, second and fifth floors. The first floor will now be dedicated solely to mental health specialty programs.

The first floor will be dedicated to mental health specialty programs, while the second floor will be for general mental health appointments and the Psychosocial Rehabilitation Recovery Center.

With the new lease, the PRRC will be able to serve 60 veterans, and the space includes showers and a laundry facility.

The Muskogee VA hospital has expanded its MRI hours to 8 a.m. -- 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. -- noon on Saturday.

"The demand for MRI services greatly exceeded our capacity that existed during normal work hours," said Dr. Daniel Roswig, chief of the radiology and nuclear medicine service, in a statement. "The new hours are a win-win for our veteran population. In most cases, the veterans are more comfortable receiving their medical services through the VA, and we have also observed that the quality of our MRI imaging is frequently superior to what is provided on the outside."

McClellan said there are numerous other enhancements and improvements underway in the eastern region.

"We have opened a clinic in Idabel," she said. "Sometime around September, we will move our Hartshorne clinic to McAlester, into the McAlester Regional Health Center. That will double its size and the hospital will be right there to help. We have been approved to open another clinic in Bartlesville. We have a small dental clinic in Tulsa, but we have been able to lease space that will triple its size. We are continually expanding. I do believe that we can always find ways to do better, and we are trying to do that. We're constantly trying to find ways to improve communication with veterans and trying to better serve them."

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(c)2018 the Tahlequah Daily Press (Tahlequah, Okla.)

Visit the Tahlequah Daily Press (Tahlequah, Okla.) at www.tahlequahdailypress.com

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