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July 27, 2014
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Editorial: Roseburg VA employee dissatisfaction points to problems

We’d like to think Roseburg is different. That a place with such beautiful scenery and friendly, helpful people could avoid corrosive work environments.

It seems that’s not the case. Not at the Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center anyway.

Reports from Roseburg VA employees mirror those we’ve heard nationwide in recent months. Long wait times for veterans seeking care. Shady record-keeping designed to mask the delays. Unethical and sometimes inappropriate behavior by managers. Decisions by those in leadership that could negatively affect the health of veterans.

We know there are good people working at the Roseburg VA. Many are veterans who are devoted to treating and caring for other veterans.

We know veterans who are pleased with the care they’ve received at the Roseburg VA don’t like seeing the facility put under intense scrutiny.

But the Roseburg employees who have criticized the practices at their workplace have nothing to gain by speaking out. They are trying to fix a broken system and get better care for veterans.

In fact, their actions, like others who’ve spoken out against VA management nationwide, have resulted in retaliation.

That creates a culture where employees learn it’s best to keep quiet, especially those who intend to have government careers carry them through to retirement.

How did the VA arrive in this situation?

Some say top administrators were motivated by bonuses awarded for prompt appointment scheduling. One local doctor says it’s the bureaucratic mandates. Doctors spend too much time filling out paperwork instead of treating patients.

Others surmise the VA wasn’t prepared to handle the increase in veterans seeking care as servicemen and women returned from tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and aging Korean and Vietnam war veterans turned to the health care system.

If there are legitimate reasons, why not disclose them? Wouldn’t that be the first step toward finding solutions?

Instead, the Roseburg VA denies there are any issues with its culture. Despite VA leaders saying Roseburg is a beautiful place to live, they cling to the excuse that it’s difficult to attract to health care providers to such a rural area.

Others counter that doctors and nurses shy away because the Roseburg VA has such limited medical procedures that professionals won’t be able to adequately exercise their skills.

But poor morale among employees may top the list of reasons it’s difficult to retain physicians and nurses at the VA. A 2013 employee satisfaction survey ranked the Roseburg VA near the bottom, compared to other facilities.

It’s difficult to imagine that employees who are so unhappy in the workplace can provide good care to those who served our country.

It’s going to take a massive change in leadership to change the culture of such a large bureaucracy. It needs to be done.

Admitting there’s a problem needs to be the first step.


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The News-Review Updated Jul 27, 2014 12:06AM Published Jul 27, 2014 12:06AM Copyright 2014 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.