“The overarching purpose is to have ongoing open communication with our veterans,” said Doug Dusenberry, chief business officer. “It is important for them to know what we are doing and where we are heading.”
Before the official town hall, attendees had the opportunity to visit booths providing pamphlets on different programs available. There was information for transportation services, LGBTQ community members and compensation programs.
Dusenberry added that it is important for veterans to get an opportunity to voice their grievances too. He said that there are ways the facility can improve and hearing from the people helps guide changes.
Dean Borsos, medical center director, opened the town hall with an overview of activities at the center, including the expansion of some service and the addition of others, like chiropractic care and acupuncture.
“We have been adding more primary care providers, mental health providers, geriatric providers,” said Borsos, “And we have more robust services in a larger capacity and capability in those areas than we have ever had.”
A big point of focus was on wait times.
Borsos said that by comparing the 2017 Merritt-Hawkins survey data on Physician Wait Times, data from the VA website on national wait times at VA facilities and data collected at James H. Quillen VA Medical Center, the latter is outperforming the other two in most departments.
He said an issue with staff vacancies has pushed some service wait times beyond that of the national average. Borsos also noted that one improvement is in optometry, where the facility has been providing same-day services. He also said there is a push to expand gynecology services and radiation oncology.
A new neurologist on staff that will provide the ability to keep those services in house, breaking from a push to outsource in other areas.
He said a urologist is interested in coming on staff, and that robotics are being looked at to offer advanced urological services.
“We are modernizing and leveraging technology all at the same time,” Borsos said.
Overall the tone of the town hall from VA Medical Center was positive, though there was contention over a veteran’s concern about pain management and opioids.
The debate was over why civilian doctors prescribe certain amounts of the drugs, but the VA pharmacy will give less.
Both Borsos and Dr. David Hecht, chief of staff, attempted to explain why restrictions on narcotics are in place at the facility.
Hecht said the facility can only prescribe opioids in the amount set by national standards. He said these standards are set by medical professionals with years of experience and are peer-reviewed.
Other areas where information was available for were LGBTQ services. Dr. Kathrine Barteck, physchologist and LGBTQ care coordinator, said that it is important the community understand at the VA, “we serve all who served.” There is some treatment available for LGBTQ veterans, and a support group that meets twice a month. More information is available at the VA website.
Associate Director Dr. Colleen Noe said there has been an expansion the mental health facility to modernize the services. The fourth floor of building 160 has been completely renovated, according to the director. There is plenty of construction to keep some of the updates hidden. Future projects will include adding two floors to the parking garage.
Dusenberry said that “Our hope is that as many of our veterans will come to this and let us know what we are doing right and let us know where we can improve.”