Retired and former military servicemen deserve and will receive the best health care possible.
So say the Veterans Affairs officials in an open forum in downtown Williamsport on Thursday.
In fact, the facilities for veterans, such as the Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center and the community-based outpatient clinic in Williamsport, received some positive reviews from people who’ve utilized the sites.
But even top officials admitted to veterans attending the forum that services are far from perfect.
Work is ongoing to better modernize health care services and regain the trust of veterans who’ve lost faith in the medical system, said Russell Lloyd, director of the Wilkes-Barre VA.
Among the efforts are the initiative, Stop the Line, which empowers employees to speak up if they see a risk to patient safety.
Medical errors are a big problem across all health care and among the leading causes of patient deaths.
“We want to make sure we have fewer accidents or events of harm,” he said. The VA also is striving to centralize some functions and further upgrade electronic health records.
Locally, Lloyd noted the Williamsport clinic experienced an 8 per cent increase in patient visits in the past year where
veterans can go for services that include primary and mental health care.
“Our vets love the clinic in Williamsport,” he said.
But Dan Brion, an Air Force combat veteran, noted that the clinic is not without its problems.
Among other issues, he pointed out the site’s lack of adequate space and handicapped entrance.
Lloyd said those problems will certainly be addressed.
One veteran questioned why phone communication is so slow in the VA system when seeking help for health care issues.
Other problems raised included confusion over which veteran’s affairs office to contact for learning about health care services. Each of the state’s 67 counties has a veteran’s affairs office.
One Iraqi war veteran described his experience seeking assistance as a nightmare with him encountering, “one situation after another.”
Lloyd said a big positive with veterans hospitals and clinics are the wait times for patients, which he claimed are shorter compared to those for private sector facilities.
He conceded that access to the nearest veterans hospital or clinic continues to be an issue for many veterans living in rural and remote areas of the U.S.
“We want to make sure we take care of our vets’ needs,” he said.