COLUMBIA, Mo. - Wednesday, veterans and others in the community expressed their concerns and asked questions about VA health care at the Truman VA Hospital town hall meeting.
The new secretary of Veterans Affairs directed all VA healthcare facilities to hold these town hall events.
The town hall event started out as an information session about the Truman VA Hospital in Columbia. The second portion was a question and answer session with a panel of administrators from the hospital. Overall, there were many positive comments from veterans who say they're very satisfied with their treatment.
Joyce Bell, Truman VA Hospital Patient: "The people who are caregivers here are just outstanding. The doctors, the nursing staff, the folks that prepare your meals in the kitchen, the folks who come in and work with you to make you feel more comfortable in your room. I could not ask for better care than I've received here."
Since January, the number of patients seen has increased and the overall wait time has decreased. By the end of the fiscal year at the end of September, they expect to have seen about 37,000 to 38,000 veterans. That is about 1,000 to 2,000 more than last year. Hospital officials say specialty care treatment has gone down from a wait time of 40 days to 28 days. The medical center director said these two accomplishments are due to the center using outside resources and hiring additional staff members.
Wade Vlosich, Medical Center Director: "We feed out to the community so we sent some of the patients out to MU or some of the places for care, but we've also internally expanded the access that we have. So we hired new docs, we hired a new neurologist, new cardiologist, we've hired new nurses. So we've been able to expand the clinics that we have here so are able to meet the demands of the patients."
In the Q & A session, questions varied from concerns about prescription labeling to the homeless vet program. But the major concern was with confusing paperwork.
Bell: "My concern is that it is such a terrible paperwork maze. And you almost need your own personal advocate, or a group of them, to go into be able to receive your benefits."
To make it easier on patients, Vlosich said Veterans Affairs changed the paperwork. Instead of requiring patients to fill out a means test themselves, now the IRS conducts income verification for the veteran.
The hospital also announced that it is going to have several construction projects ahead to expand patient care. Some of those include a new parking garage, a new intensive care unit, new dental clinic and a new oncology suite.
The construction projects are expected to begin in 2015. And a veterans housing complex for homeless veterans will be built in the old Deluxe Inn on Business Loop 70 Drive.