As the Department of Veterans Affairs is still reeling from the secret waitlist and Legionnaire scandals, the recent closing of the emergency room due to a shortage of doctors at the Fayetteville VA Medical Center in North Carolina puts a damper on its efforts to improve the department’s image and sends a wrong message to our nation’s heroes.
The ER had been operated mostly with contract employees and was closed last month after the contractor failed to provide enough doctors. Veterans now have to go to a community hospital where there are no specialized doctors who understand their needs. Also, many veterans who use non-VA emergency rooms end up paying more out of their own pockets and will not be reimbursed due to the way health care services are billed.
AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. on Thursday joined AFGE members from Local 1738 at a rally in front of the hospital to protest the closing of the ER and demand that they reopen it with full-time federal employees.
“Fayetteville VA Medical Center staff understand how critical this hospital is to veterans and this community as a whole. They are standing up for veterans and saying enough is enough,” said AFGE National President J. David Cox, Sr.
Instead of staffing the ER with reliable federal employees, the VA handed over this important function to an inept contractor who placed profits over the interests of veterans so desperately in need of specialized ER care when facing medical and mental health crises.
“[Fayetteville VA Medical Center Director Elizabeth] Goolsby’s poor track record in other areas also cries out for action at the national level. As you are also aware, a recent VHA audit revealed that the wait times at Fayetteville were even longer than those faced by veterans at the Phoenix Medical Center,” President Cox said in a letter to VA Secretary Bob McDonald. “Our members have also expressed concerns about short staffing in other departments, arbitrary downgrades of key customer service positions, and excess spending on management offices and bonuses.”
President Cox asked to meet with the VA secretary to discuss the reopening of the ER and to shield North Carolina veterans from further mismanagement.
Watch this video from the rally in which President Cox was interviewed by WRAL-TV in Fayetteville.