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VA hospital’s problems worse than reported

In light of the recent article by the paper concerning our beleaguered VA medical center and (Veteran’s Services) Secretary (Brig. Gen. Jack) Fox’s comments, I, too, feel compelled to address the supposed improvements being made at the Raymond G. Murphy VA Medical Center that will somehow move it from its bottom 10 ranking in the nation. I’m sorry, but I only wish parking facilities and telephone hold wait times were the extent of problems challenging this VA. Sadly, the problems are much more systemic than mere access to the facility.

As a veteran of the United States Air Force, I proudly served my country. However, while I receive my care at the VA, I have had overtly negative experiences there in the four years I’ve been receiving in total contrast to what (Medical Center Director Andrew) Welch calls “quality care.”

Not only have I experienced hold times of over 2 hours just to make an appointment, but each time I arrive for my appointment, I know that it’s going to be a half day affair or more. While I’m in the waiting room, I hear an abundance of cries from veterans who have been there hours waiting for a simple suture removal, and see the eye rolling from staff who frequently acknowledge their indifference with comments like, “This is the VA. What do they expect?!” Mind you, this is all after I kick and scream to receive an appointment in a timely manner. I’ve even been subject to fake appointments so that the VA doesn’t have to spend its precious resources referring me to a quality physician outside of the VA network.

I recently fell victim to the VA’s high infection rate via a very simple and routine orthopedic procedure. Not only was my infection 100 percent preventable, but I was turned away time and time again after I displayed symptoms of a staph infection. I was sent out the door with the classic VA pain management “protocol” of 60 tablets of hydrocodone and “call us if you have any more problems.” I was told that I was overreacting and that I needed to be a lot “tougher.” After being essentially denied service by this “quality care” institution, I went to the ER at UNMH where eight days later I arrived home the night before Thanksgiving with a PICC line in my arm to administer IV antibiotics to myself for another 4 weeks.

So, Secretary Fox and Mr. Welch, I’d like to see concrete evidence that the VA is indeed making strides to better the infection rate and these other areas you’re speaking of because that is not my experience. The reality is “improvement” is the only option at the VA because abysmal care is the norm there. Until people like Secretary Fox and Mr. Welch are forced to receive their care at the VA, they will never understand how insulting comments like “progress is being made under Welch and his staff” are to us who have seen what VA care is all about from the perspective of the waiting rooms.

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