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If you go
What: Public town meeting on the quality of care provided by the Veterans Affairs Northern Indiana Health Care System
When: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday
Where: American Legion Post 148, 705 E. Lewis St.
Sponsor: American Legion’s System Worth Saving Task Force

Legion eyes vets’ quality of care

Task force revisits suspension of VA inpatient services

– The American Legion will take a second look at Fort Wayne’s VA Medical Center and its temporary suspension of inpatient care.

The Legion’s System Worth Saving Task Force has scheduled a public meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Charles C. Anderson Post 148 at 705 E. Lewis St.

Task force members will visit the medical center Wednesday and Thursday.

Ralph Bozella, task force chairman, said Wednesday he wants to follow up on December talks he had with Department of Veterans Affairs employees and patients about inpatient services, communications and staffing at the Lake Avenue complex. Those sessions were devoted largely to the October suspension of inpatient care, which is being resumed in phases.

“We’re here to help them. We want to focus on how we make it better,” Bozella said in a telephone interview.

He will be joined at the public meeting and site visit by local, state and national officials of the American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans organization. Bozella, of Longmont, Colo., is chairman of the Legion’s National Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Commission.

The contingent will include Jacob Gadd, the Washington, D.C.-based deputy director of health care for the Legion commission. He participated in the December review.

“We’re just going to go back to all the steps that (the medical center) took and evaluate them from the feedback from veterans and the folks representing veterans,” Gadd said. “Is it working? Has it improved? If there are any issues, what are they?”

VA Northern Indiana Health Care System said Oct. 23 it was suspending inpatient services at its Fort Wayne campus to review processes, train staff and ensure care for veterans.

Gadd and Bozella said they will seek information about staff vacancies and turnover among nurses.

“We’re going to try to determine why they have so much trouble recruiting,” Bozella said, noting that local hospital systems Lutheran Health Network and Parkview Health don’t appear to have the same problem.

Sheryl Grubb, public affairs officer for VANIHCS, said in an email that the last vacancy among leadership positions on the clinical staff will be filled in June. She said VANIHCS has filled primary-care jobs that had been vacant.

The date for restarting inpatient telemetry – the remote monitoring of patients – will be announced in the next week, Grubb said, leaving the six-bed intensive care unit as “the final phase to consider” in restoring inpatient care.

Since late last year, the VA Medical Center has resumed inpatient chemotherapy infusions and inpatient services for complex medical conditions. The center has 26 acute-care hospital beds.

Bozella said communications among the VA Medical Center, veterans and veterans’ advocacy groups seem to have improved since Denise Deitzen became director of VANIHCS in December.

bfrancisco@jg.net

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