McMurry: Dorn working to improve access to medical care for SC veterans

Guest ColumnistJune 12, 2014 

Our most important mission at the Department of Veterans Affairs is to make sure our veterans know we are here to care for them as we provide high-quality health care in a patient-centered environment.

As the new director at the Wm. Jennings Bryan Dorn VA Medical Center, I oversee one of the fastest-growing facilities in our network. In Fiscal Year 2013, 75,813 of the more than 130,000 veterans enrolled in VA health care in South Carolina were patients at our medical center or its outlying community-based outpatient clinics. That number was up 3.3 percent from the two previous years. These veterans made more than 930,000 outpatient visits at the main campus and our seven clinics.

We at Dorn are aware of the problems with wait times, and our staff is working diligently to provide veterans with timely medical appointments.

Some of the measures being reviewed or implemented to improve access include actively recruiting physicians, nurses, mental health professionals and other critical clinical staff; assessing the need for overtime; extending or flexing clinic hours on nights and weekends; the construction of new medical facilities to expand health care; and our continued partnership with community and military providers to augment care off-site.

We have a new medical chief of staff, a new chief of medicine will arrive on Aug. 11, and a selection has been made for chief of primary care; we also are conducting interviews for the chief of surgery.

We have opened an ultra-modern 78,000-square-foot clinic in Greenville to provide 17,000 Upstate veterans with primary care, mental health, optometry, dental, pharmacy, audiology, laboratory, radiology and physical therapy services.

We have completed the 10,000-square-foot Freedom Health Center in Columbia that provides a centralized health-care location for returning service members from Iraq and Afghanistan.

We have broken ground on a new 45,000 square-foot clinic in Anderson. And our women’s health clinic provides programs and services for female veterans.

Our renovated cardiac catheterization laboratory provides congestive heart failure treatment, echocardiography, nuclear stress testing, electrophysiology and diagnostic cardiac catheterization.

Our physicians are performing highly innovative procedures in ultra-modern facilities.

As a major teaching and training medical campus, we have established partnerships with University of South Carolina School of Medicine and Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine.

To ensure that we augment our care when needed, we work with other VA facilities, community providers and our Department of Defense partners — all of whom provide the same quality care as veterans receive here at Dorn.

Dorn has earned accreditation through the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities for our pain program as well as recognition for a third year in a row as one of the nation’s top performers on key quality measures by the Joint Commission, the leading accreditor of health-care organizations in America.

Our veterans can rest assured that we at the Dorn VA Medical Center and the seven outpatient clinics remain focused on solutions and are taking aggressive actions to improve access to care.

Mr. McMurry is director of Columbia’s Wm. Jennings Bryan Dorn VA Medical Center; contact him at vhacmspublicaffairs@va.gov.

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