Tuesday, December 13, 2016

It’s a wonderful day in the VA Northport neighborhood...

“It’s a wonderful day in the VA Northport neighborhood...won’t you be my neighbor?”

It seems like my “second home” is going up for sale; literally and figuratively.
I am, of course, referring to the Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) in Northport, NY. The writing has been on the bathroom walls for some time, but I just didn’t want to believe it; yes, denial is the correct word, here. I remember about five years ago hearing that the VAMC Northport was in closed-door discussion with the North Shore/LIJ Health Network, and the takeover (privatization) of the VA Hospital was one of the topics on the agenda. There was ultimately a collaboration effected at the VA’s Bay Shore Clinic. And, I must admit that this affiliation/collaboration has worked pretty well. It seems be all accounts that a Veteran can get an appointment in the Bay Shore Clinic much sooner than he/she can at the VAMC Northport Hospital (go figure?). I have a very close friend who frequents the satellite Clinic in Riverhead, NY, and he has had a fairly decent experience there with appointment wait times and the little amount of treatment he asks of them.
Now, when it comes to wait times for appointments and satisfactory treatment at the main VAMC Hospital in Northport, the management seems to love quoting those Veterans who do not demand very much in the way of services. This set of Veterans tends to give the entire Hospital carte-blanche, positive feedback regarding their treatment at the VAMC Northport; even though they have not yet used, or consumed, but a small fraction of the VAMC’s product line. This “positive” feedback is being crammed down the throats of our elected Officials in Washington DC. The infamous Koch brothers are lobbying hard and heavy to hand the entire VA System over to private industry for the profit motive.
Ah, but wait, there’s more to this than meets the eye.
If you continue to ask questions of this set of Veterans, and start to dig a little deeper with more precise questions, you find out that, indeed, they have had problems in the past getting timely appointments, receiving proper treatment from the Medical Staff, and being treated with respect when dealing with the “system”. So, in fact, the glowing numbers the VAMC Hospital management produces and publishes are not a reality for 99% of the Veterans on Long Island who consume VA Medical and Mental Health products.
[note: Only about 28k of the roughly 140k Veterans on Long Island are registered users of the VA Health Care System in Nassau and Suffolk Counties; 20%. Where’s the other 80%?]
So much for the Veteran consumers at the VAMC Northport. Let’s talk a little about those folks who are under the employ of the Federal Government and hold jobs at the VAMC Northport. Being a part of the largest health care system in the World, there are, obviously, many levels of employment at play here. Employment ranges from the Veteran who mop the floors for $2.50/hour to the Doctors and Administrators earning from $100k to $300k per year. The low-end employees are doing the best with the cards that have been dealt them, and they are our Brothers and Sisters just trying to get by. The middle of the pack are the folks who have signed on and are trying to do the best they can under a corrupt, arrogant, and intimidating Administration. And, people being people, some react differently than others, but, by and large, there is a solid, dedicated “middle class” of Nurses, Social Workers, Doctors, lower administrators and assistants, etc.
Then, there’s the old 1% at the top!
This is where the “system” totally breaks down! This is where the culture of corruption, arrogance, intimidation, etc. starts and ends. The buck cannot be passed up or down the line from here. Luckily, for us Veterans and our Health Care, 2016 has been good to us in one respect. Some much-needed light has been shone on the disaster that is our VA Hospital and its upper management. September saw an unprecedented Congressional Hearing held on the Hospital grounds. A Hearing that saw the Hospital Director and the VISN 2 Director give (and, I’ll be kind, here) misleading information to a Congressional Investigative Panel while under oath. The funny thing was that the Congressional Panel members knew the answers to their questions before they asked them (Oh, that’s such an old “lawyer” trick. How could anyone with half a brain get tripped up on that?). And, it turns out that while everything seems to have gone a little quiet since then, in actuality the Investigators are still in the process of constructing a case strong enough to produce criminal indictments of these bad players. The word on the street has them very close to handing their findings over to the Justice Department for formal indictments. I find it interesting that some of “lesser” players in this game don’t have a clue that they, too, are open for indictment, as well as their buddies at the top.


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