U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Springfield, called on federal agencies Wednesday to help recruit and retain health care professionals for the Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
The VA director cited a shortage of support staff for the decision to downsize the facility’s 24/7 emergency department last week to a five day a week urgent care. The switch had originally been planned for the end of the year. The difficulties for local veterans following this change have been exacerbated by the fact that no private urgent care in the VA’s network in Douglas County is open on weekends.
DeFazio sent letters Wednesday to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie and U.S. Office of Personnel Management Deputy Associate Director of Pay and Leave Brenda Roberts, asking them to be better partners in the effort to recruit and retain quality health care workers for the Roseburg VA.
DeFazio will discuss the VA and affordable health care during a town hall meeting planned for 2 to 3 p.m. on Friday at Umpqua Community College’s Centerstage Theatre in Winchester.
“Simply put, we must do more to recruit and retain top-tier health care providers,” DeFazio said in a written statement. “Multiple candidates declined employment offers from the Roseburg Healthcare System between 2017 and 2019 because the salary and benefit packages did not cover the higher cost of living and housing shortages in Douglas and Lane Counties.”
In his letter to Wilkie, he said difficulties recruiting and retaining staff have persisted despite incentives like student loan repayment. He said it’s critical that a private urgent care be added to the VA’s network, and that the Roseburg Veterans Affairs Health Care System be allowed to improve its salary and benefit packages.
“Without appropriate VA Central Office intervention, I am concerned that RVAHS will continue to suffer from recruiting and retention issues, which will ultimately lead to degraded care for veterans. Neglecting or abandoning Southwest Oregon’s veterans is not an option,” DeFazio wrote.