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South Texas Veterans Health Care System (STVHCS)

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South Texas VA holds Victoria Town Hall

A panel of senior leaders, (seated from left) Dr. Vicki Hanningan, South Texas VA director, Mr. Robert Walton, and Debbie Ramirez, Victoria VA Administrative Officer listen to Veterans' remarks.

A panel of senior leaders, (seated from left) Dr. Vicki Hanningan, South Texas VA director, Mr. Robert Walton, and Debbie Ramirez, Victoria VA Administrative Officer listen to Veterans' remarks March 9, at the Victoria Town Hall.

By Steve Goetsch
Thursday, March 24, 2016

Although severe weather kept some Veterans away from the Victoria VA Town Hall meeting March 9, the Veterans, families and caretakers that attended brought with them some valuable feedback for South Texas Veterans Health Care System (STVHCS) leadership to take back to San Antonio.

The quarterly town hall in Victoria was an initiative of STVHCS Director, Mr. Robert Walton, who wanted to include the health system’s outlying clinics and hospitals in the feedback process.

Joining Walton for the town hall were several STVHCS leaders and specialists from multiple disciplines like suicide prevention, prosthetics and the homeless Veterans program.

One of those on the panel was Victoria’s Administrative Officer, Deborah, Ramirez, who said the key to providing great healthcare in Victoria is keeping customer service at the forefront of everything they do; using staff meetings to share positive and negative customer service experiences and practices with all employees.

Several Veterans passionately engaged staff members about problems they were having with their health care. One of those Veterans, retired Sailor Leathon LeBlanc said he is really satisfied with his care, but getting started was not as easy.  “Once I started with the Victoria clinic I had no problems,” LeBlanc said, but initially getting in was really difficult.”

The communication systems became a topic of conversation from a few Veterans in the audience. The issue was recorded immediately by the director. Chief of Quality Management, Amjed Baghdadi explained to the audience steps are already being taken to alleviate the stress on the communication system by developing an internal yellow pages directory to ensure when a staff member transfers a patient call, it goes to the right person every time.

A VA employee is standing in front of a Veteran, explaining programs to help answer his concerns.

South Texas VA Prosthetics Supervisor, Alex Forehead explains policies and procedures of his unit to a Veteran at the recent town hall held in Victoria, Texas. It was the first town hall there for some time, and is part of the outreach commitment of director Robert Walton.

A former nurse and Veteran echoed the communication hurdles, but lauded the Victoria clinic as a “model” for healthcare. “I have never seen another healthcare system run more efficiently than Victoria,” he said. He reiterated that he himself has worked in healthcare for a number of years and said what makes Victoria superb are the staff.

Ramirez said that is not by chance and that respect is something emblazoned in the culture. “I have always reinforced with employees to treat all persons that walk through our clinic doors as if they were family members,” Ramirez explained. She added that the Victoria VA staff has embraced the Golden Rule, and it has worked well for them and their patients.

Some Veterans, with binders of paperwork in hand, said they had difficulty working with third parties making the process confusing and frustrating. The caretaker needed assistance with handicap renovations and needed help. Enter Acting Assistant Chief of Prosthetics Alex Forehead, who quickly took the Veteran along with a patient advocate and assisted her.

Those engagements are exactly why the quarterly town hall program was initiated by VA Secretary Robert McDonald.  

The next South Texas VA quarterly town hall is tentatively scheduled for June 23 in the Audie L. Murphy Memorial Veterans Hospital auditorium on the second floor.

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