Mountain Home continues to fulfill a long-ago vision

Douglas Fritz • Dec 2, 2019 at 10:13 AM

One hundred and fifty-four years ago, the task of caring for those wounded while fighting for their country was a brilliant plan penned into law by president Abraham Lincoln.

Johnson City wasn’t even Johnson City at the time, but these days the area has become home to an offshoot of Lincoln’s vision.

The Veterans Administration Medical Center is an integral part of health care for those who have served in the United States Armed Forces. And, as Paul Winsor pointed out, it is a unique place on many levels.

“It’s unique because of the culture,” said Windsor, acting public affairs officer and executive assistant to the medical center director. “People genuinely care about the veterans. The floors are kept spotless, the grass is mowed and the trees are off the ground. Everybody does their job enthusiastically. People will stop you in the hallways to help you find where you need to go. And it extends to the doctors and nurses, too. The patients receive a high level of care. I think all VAs have some level of surgery, and we do it as well or better than anyone.”

Perhaps part of the culture at the VA camps is a product of being its own place.

“We are surely a city within a city,” said Windsor. “We have our own zip code and our own police force.”

Mountain Home had its first patient in October of 1903. The official name at the time was the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers. It was the 10th such place in the nation created under Lincoln’s law.

In the 1920s, it was designated as a national sanatorium. Windsor said the goal was the rehabilitation of young veterans from World War I who were suffering from tuberculosis.

Through the years, Mountain Home changed and adapted with the times. Included in the more recent mix was the addition of telemedicine. Today’s VA patients who are in the Intensive Care Unit can be monitored by doctors at the University of Cincinnati, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“If somebody codes in the ICU — which means their heart stops — not only are our doctors immediately alerted, but also the doctors in Cincinnati,” said Windsor. “The technology is amazing.”

Another way the Mountain Home VA has grown and adapted is the care of women veterans.

“There are more women veterans these days, as we need to take care of their needs,” said Windsor. “Several years ago we hired an OBGYN. We do women’s health procedures on campus, and we have a provider who specializes in women’s health.”

Overall, said Windsor, it’s just a good place.

“It’s really neat,” he said. “The history of it is a lot of fun, especially when you look at the architecture and the way things used to be.

“There used to be a fire department here. And the gazebo was called the bandstand. Every Sunday, there would be a performance in the bandstand. And people grew their own crops here. The clock tower building has the original gear in the clock and it still works. This place has a great history.”