The concerns of our local veterans will once again be heard in a town hall meeting.
After being ordered by new Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald to hold a public meeting before the end of September, the Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center promptly scheduled a forum for Sept. 4. The agency even scheduled it in the evening, when more people should be able to attend and provide their viewpoints.
It’s important to hear from the veterans because it’s their care, their lives, that we’re talking about.
We’ll expect to hear one common refrain: Reopen the intensive-care unit.
Others might be: Restore our full-service hospital, hire more doctors, strengthen the staff in the emergency room, add more beds for the post-traumatic stress disorder program.
We may hear some complaints on patient wait times. The Roseburg VA admits it’s had difficulty recruiting doctors for specialty care, so long waiting lists have developed. Most prominent is the backlog of screening colonoscopies.
Veterans here are so dedicated to being treated at the Roseburg VA, however, that many of them choose to wait for an appointment. Director Carol Bogedain said her staff called 5,200 veterans recently and the vast majority opted to wait for a VA appointment rather than get their care in the private sector.
But let’s remember that while long wait times must be remedied so they don’t jeopardize veterans’ care, the more serious overall issue is the lack of integrity by VA leaders who ordered their subordinates to falsify patient appointment records.
The people who gave such instructions, or those who knew about it and condoned it, must resign or be fired.
Our local veterans don’t know who handed down these orders on the VA campus, but Roseburg VA employees do.
Still, they can’t stand up at the town hall meeting and point fingers or name names. Those within the organization who have tried that approach tell us they’ve been ignored, labeled as troublemakers, or portrayed as not getting along with their supervisors.
Certainly every organization has its share of disgruntled employees, but it’s likely these employees were telling the truth before this nationwide exposure erupted. Now their concerns should be revisited.
The VA announced Friday that it would initiate an independent, nationwide review of all scheduling practices at VA medical facilities.
This review should not be limited to current practices — even the slow-moving wheels of government have had time to react to this national news and change its ways.
The Joint Commission that’s been asked to investigate must review past practices and find who was responsible for instigating them at each facility. Otherwise, it will be a waste of time.
At the Roseburg VA, it shouldn’t be a difficult or a time-consuming probe. We’ve had numerous people tell us who they believe was the instigator. An investigation would reveal the commonly held perception.
We’ve called for Bogedain’s resignation because as director, she carries the ultimate responsibility. But the entire leadership team may need to go — the chief of staff has already resigned — for transparency and honesty to return to the Roseburg VA.