U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio said Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center Director Keith Allen has not been communicative enough with local veterans or congressional leaders about problems ranging from COVID-19 data to postal slowdowns impacting medicine deliveries.
DeFazio made his comments in a letter to Allen on Thursday, and followed that up with a press release in which he urged the director to engage in more robust communications with local Veterans Service Organizations and Oregon’s congressional delegation.
Regular meetings with those groups had been routinely canceled since March, DeFazio said. He also said the VA stopped providing COVID-19 data only a few weeks after it first made the information available.
“There are also ongoing questions around what COVID-19 data is being reported to local public health authorities and the potential consequences of incomplete data for southwest Oregon,” he wrote.
VA spokesperson Tim Parish said in an email that social distancing and other safety precautions have limited routine meetings at almost every organization in the country, and the Roseburg VA is no different.
“Throughout this national emergency, Roseburg VA Health Care System has been laser focused on providing life-saving treatment to Veterans while keeping patients and employees from contracting COVID-19,” he said.
The result, he said, is that just seven Roseburg VA employees — 0.5% of its workforce — and nine veteran patients have been diagnosed with the disease.
Parish also said the VA had maintained near daily contact with county, state and federal response teams. He said the latest VA COVID-19 testing and case information is available online.
He said the VA reports testing results through the Department of Health and Human Services, as every health care facility does.
DeFazio said he had also heard daily from veterans about reductions in mental and dental health services.
But Parish said there have been no reductions in mental health services.
Dental services that aren’t emergencies have been curtailed in order to follow the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control, he said.
DeFazio also said veterans were requesting more information about what the impact of U.S. Postal Service changes would be on prescription drug deliveries.
The Postal Service had announced changes that could lead to slowdowns in mail service, prompting concern around the country about both mail-in voting and pharmaceutical delivery. In response to public pressure, it has called a halt to further changes until after the November election.
Parish said the Roseburg VA has not had any reports of medication delivery delays from patients; however, he said veterans also have the option of getting prescriptions filled in person on campus. As of July, prescription delivery averaged 2.86 days, he said. The VA recommends requesting refills at least 10 days ahead.