“... we are more concerned than ever before that changes to the services provided at the Roseburg VA Medical Center will make it much harder for veterans to receive the health care they have earned,” said the congressmen, who made the trip to Roseburg for the March 30 forum at the Roseburg VA.
They asked Shinseki to immediately suspend any planned changes in services at the Roseburg VA Medical Center. They also asked him to commission an independent review to determine if any potential changes would prevent veterans from receiving needed services.
Megan Streight, spokeswoman for the Veterans Integrated Service Network that oversees VA facilities in the Northwest, responded to the letter Tuesday.
“We have no plans to impact inpatient services,” Streight said. “We are reviewing different programs at the hospital ... We may be offering (them) in different ways in the future and that is to be determined.”
Streight also said the VISN has agreed to the congressmen's request for an external review of any proposed changes in service. She said the VISN is in the processing of retaining someone to do that.
She also said the outside agency will review possible changes in how the VA Roseburg Healthcare System provides emergency care, among other issues.
On Oct. 1, the Roseburg VA facility closed its intensive care unit and replaced it with a telemetry unit, which provides less critical care than an intensive care unit.
Streight said once the external review is complete, “we will have a very thorough communication (with local veterans) with regard to the review and any decisions that are made.”
She also said the VISN is sending an internal team to the Roseburg center next week to review how emergency care is being offered there.
If changes are made to services in Roseburg, veterans won't be losing services, Streight emphasized. “The goal for the VA is to ensure veterans get care as close to home as possible and in the most convenient way possible.”
The congressmen asked Shinseki to provide them with a thorough answer to each of 22 questions that veterans posed during or after the Roseburg forum as well as at a similar one held in North Bend.
One person asked under what circumstances would the VA consider reopening the ICU at the Roseburg VA Medical Center. Other questions center on related topics, such as how the VA shares veterans' medical records with community hospitals to which vets are transferred. Another centered on how the VA would serve veterans who need acute mental health care if after-hours emergency services were discontinued in Roseburg.
One veteran asked for a historical overview of the Roseburg VA facility over the past five years, detailing the number of beds, staff members, the patient-to-nurse ratio and other details throughout that time frame.
Other questions are more general. For example, veterans asked how the VA Roseburg Healthcare System is preparing for soldiers who will soon return from Iraq. They also asked which medical services the system will offer should the Roseburg VA campus be chosen as the site for a new state veterans home.