A Jefferson County man says he's fed up with the care he's been getting at the Watertown VA. David Henderson went as far as to take out a newspaper ad to ask others for their stories, all in an effort to create the change he says is needed. A change our Brian Dwyer reports is already on the way. A change Henderson says is actually a pretty good first step.
JEFFERSON COUNTY, N.Y. -- Vietnam War veteran David Henderson sits at his table reading letters. He then hops on his computer to look at his email. They're all responses to an ad he took out in the Watertown Daily Times asking people to send him their experiences with the VA Clinic in Watertown. He says he's gotten about 15 or so, most with the same issues he's gone through: Poor communication leading to what he says is poor care.
"They've seen it this way. They've just become complacent with it and accept it as the norm. For me, I don't like to accept things," Henderson said.
Henderson says there's times he'd call the clinic three or four times before he'd get a call back. He'd go in multiple times for things that could have been done in one trip. He's also concerned about the care itself, putting vets in danger. He says he realizes the system is overwhelmed, but it shouldn't be an excuse.
"I would encourage them to walk in our shoes and see what it is like to not get a response, not get our questions answered," he said. "I'm sure they will not be happy about it."
Henderson plans to compile the responses and give them to staff in the Syracuse VA office.
But an answer could already be on the way. The Syracuse clinic has been working with a new program it says has improved everything about its clinic that Henderson is talking about.
"It's the patient at the center of a larger team that includes not just the primary care provider, but other team members," Syracuse VA Chief of Primary Care Dr. John Langenberg said.
It's called patient-aligned team care. The patient gets a specific doctor, nurse, clerical staffer and more. It can bring consistency, familiarization and teamwork.
"If the provider is the only one who has access to the health information and is the only one communicating with the patient, that does not provide the best care for the patient," Dr. Langenberg said.
It's a plan that Henderson says is a great idea, as long as it doesn't stop there and the improvement ideas keep coming.
The Syracuse VA says it hopes to get the team-based care model in the Watertown facility as soon as possible.