My first visit to the Roseburg VA was in 1991. I have seen many directors come and go, and with each new director there has been hope that things would get better. In that time there have been many changes, some good, most not so good.
As a diabetic, I have seen dentistry, podiatry and dermatology services disappear. I have also seen the outpatient clinics go from four clinics to three. What did happen to the Green team? We have also seen VISN 20 disband the intensive care unit.
When our current interim director, Mr. Whitmer, was brought in to fix what was wrong with the facility, I asked him if any of these services would be restored. His answer was he would look into the matter. When I last spoke with him it was apparent that none of these services would be restored.
When Ms. Bogedain was removed from the director position, she was replaced by Mr. Paxton. At that time the star rating went from a 1 to a 2 star. I believe this was because most veterans and staff thought that anyone would be better than who we had. Boy were we wrong.The star rating went back to a 1 on the next cycle. With the arrival of Mr. Whitmer, the star rating again went from a 1 to a 2. I personally believe this will return to a 1 on the next cycle.
When I asked Mr. Whitmer what factors went into the star rating system, I was told there were too many factors and that I probably would not understand them. In other words, it was none of my business.
A recent article in The News-Review indicated that unhappiness with the VA management continues. After talking with veterans and employees, I found in most cases this was true.
In the same article I noticed some interesting facts. Mr. Whitmer stated that the “best place to work” rating went from 54 to 60. In my opinion, that’s not much to brag about . Regarding nurses, he said that 67 percent were not thinking of leaving. Does that mean that 33 percent are thinking of leaving? A 33 percent turnover rate is pretty high. With doctors, only 47 percent were not thinking of leaving. Has anybody bothered to ask the doctors why they are thinking of leaving? When I had the opportunity to interview employees that were leaving for other employment the number one factor was the toxic atmosphere. I do not think that has changed.
Mr. Whitmer also stated that on the survey, non-medical staff gave higher ratings than the medical staff. Does that mean that if you just looked at the medical staff results, the facility rating would be lower? I think at a medical facility, the most important statistics are those that come from the medical employees.
In the same article, Mr. Tanner, the union president, stated that doctors were working 20 to 40 hours overtime per week. That might be one reason so many doctors are not thinking of staying. At the time of the article, there were no postings on the USAJOBS website for doctors, nurse practitioners or physician assistants. Mr. Tanner also stated that the employees had a fear of the human resources department. Mr. Whitmer told me there had been no changes in that department.
As for improvements at the VA, I have seen none. On four separate occasions, I have attempted to use the walk-in policy to see my caregiver. I was not able to see my doctor on any one of these attempts.
I do see now that there is a job posted on USAJOBS for an interior designer at $50,598 per year. I sure that will help to reduce the wait times that are currently way above the set goals.
In my personal opinion we will not see any improvement at the Roseburg VA until something is done about the toxic atmosphere at VISN 20. Like the old saying goes “A fish stinks from the head down.”