Veterans in Oregon protested proposed cutbacks at their local VA hospital in Roseburg at a town hall meeting Wednesday, the News-Review reports. They were joined by federal, state and county officials who also condemned recommendations to contract out more healthcare services instead of investing in better inpatient services the VA Roseburg Healthcare System.
"The veterans of Southern Oregon are being ignored, disregarded and shortchanged," Jim Little, president of the Douglas County Veterans Forum said. "Our bottom line is to have the ICU maintained. If the Roseburg ICU is not restored to full service, we will not let this campaign drop."
An unidentified Marine worried that critical services would be cut, KPIC reports. "I had an episode a while back with my PTSD, and Roseburg is what brought me back from the brink," he said.
Preliminary recommendations from a consultant's report suggest that veterans be sent outside the VA system for treatment, or connected with doctors via phone and the Internet, according to the News-Review. None of the recommendations suggests the facility should resume as a full-service hospital. Roseburg is the only VA hospital between San Francisco and Portland.
To explain the recommendations, Dr. Kevin Vigilante, vice president of Booz Allen Hamilton--the contractor hired by Veterans Affairs to conduct the study--explained that it's been too hard to recruit doctors, particularly specialists, for the healthcare system. Critics of Booz Allen's recommendations complained that they faced weeks of waiting to see a doctor at the Roseburg VA or were sent to another medical center where they weren't reimbursed by the VA.
Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) didn't want to see more outsourcing of healthcare services. "We want people to be served in this system," he said.
U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki will make the final decision on whether the VA should follow the consultant's recommendation.
"We'll take it to the next level if we get what we see as an unfavorable recommendation," DeFazio (D-Ore.) said.
Editor's Note: Booz Allen will accept written comments on the future of the Roseburg VA until Jan. 14 at [email protected].