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February 21, 2014
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Guest column: Will the VA care for its veterans or push them into the private sector?

Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center Chief of Staff Chip Taylor stated in his recent guest column that he would like to “reframe the conversation” at Roseburg VA.

He stated “we should be asking whether it is in the best interest of our local veterans, and the Roseburg community, to reopen an intensive care unit on the VA campus ...” I also believe that is the best frame to view what has been happening at the Roseburg VA hospital. So now I ask Dr. Taylor as a VA Roseburg hospital leader to respond to the following issues.

Seems like Dr. Taylor likes the concept that the private sector hospital (Mercy Medical Center) should take on the responsibility of caring for local veterans. What are the financial costs to veterans forced to use a system other than the VA? Is Mercy a willing participant in his dream of having the private sector take on the responsibility of acutely caring for veterans? Have agreements been signed between Mercy and VA Roseburg to provide this care? Did not Congress allocate additional funds for the VA hospitals (not the private care hospitals) to care for veterans? What is the responsibility of the VA system to care for its veterans?

Dr. Taylor forgets to mention how the veterans are treated in the private sector. Because of lack of timely payment and the multitude of calls required interacting with the VA system, the private sector hospital’s frustrations have been brewing for years. Unfortunately, the veteran often feels the brunt of this frustration.

Would Dr. Taylor like to please comment on how unsafe and inappropriate it is to advertise an urgent care unit as an emergency department as touted by Roseburg VA leadership?

And maybe he could comment about the fact that at least a couple of Eugene providers have resigned after sending a letter to him last April 10 detailing why they were not qualified to staff the “emergency department” due to a lack of credentials.

In fact, nine providers signed that letter. Were they not given an ultimatum to provide care or turn in their resignations? Sounds like the administration was more concerned with placing any provider, qualified or not, in the “emergency department.” This does not sound like it is in the best interest of our local veterans.

Last question. How does having one of the lowest employee morale surveys in the country promote the best interest of our local veterans? And what are you doing to correct this ongoing and worsening problem?

Dr. Taylor has cleverly tried to distract the community from the main issues by detailing his statistics about the ICU. Here’s the real issue: Is the VA system going to care for its veterans or abdicate this responsibility to the private sector?

And if abdication is the answer, then it is time to close the VA system and use that funding for the private sector. And maybe then veterans will receive care at least of a similar quality to the rest of the people in this community.

Dr. Charles Ross, a 16-year resident of Roseburg, worked in emergency medicine for 30 years, including a short stint as medical director of the Roseburg VA Emergency Department from 2007 to 2008. He now is a lifestyle medicine physician for the Umpqua Community Health Clinic and an instructor at College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific Northwest in Lebanon. He can be reached at cataniaross@msn.com.

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The News-Review Updated Feb 21, 2014 01:10PM Published Feb 21, 2014 11:16AM Copyright 2014 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.