Replacement Robley Rex Veterans Hospital– On Track Or Not?

It ain’t over ’til it’s over. (R.I.P. Yogi Berra, 1925-2015)

Earlier this month on September 10. the Robley Rex Veterans Hospital held a “Town Hall” to provide a forum for VA beneficiaries.  I went to see what was being said about the replacement hospital being constructed at the intersection of Route 42/Brownsboro Rd and the Waterson Expressway.  A tag-team of residents in the area have joined forces with University and business advocates who are still lobbying to have the hospital built downtown. These groups have been trying to scuttle the process including using the same strategies employed successfully by River Fields and others to delay and modify the construction of the new East-End bridge across the Ohio River.  For example, the big push now is for a second even more extensive environmental impact study or to try to find a possible burial site somewhere on the property!

The current partnership combines tenacious forces of anywhere-else-but-here with no-where-else-but-here and which have had some limited success.  It doesn’t hurt their efforts that the local Courier-Journal newspaper and city government aligned themselves with the downtown-only forces over 12 years ago when the replacement hospital initiative began.  Lots of free editorial ink has been assured.  As for the Veterans themselves, they have been largely unanimous in expressing their wishes to stay-where-we-are-now, or to go anywhere-except-downtown!  The local and Washington VA authorities are being pushed and pulled in every which way. One can easily feel sorry for them!  I have chronicled the process extensively elsewhere in these pages. Continue reading “Replacement Robley Rex Veterans Hospital– On Track Or Not?”

Building A New VA Hospital— What Would Robley Rex Think?

robley-rexThe lengthy and tortuous planning process to build a replacement Robley Rex Veterans Administration hospital came into public view again these last three weeks. On January 15, dual afternoon and evening public hearings were held at the Clifton Center to allow public comment on the site-specific draft environmental assessment of the former farmland. It is my understanding that these were expected to be the last public hearings to held for the relocation project.

I estimate that some 60 people attended each session, but I could not completely differentiate program development and VA staff members from the public. There were probably some, like me, that attended both hearings. An initial (and certainly futile) request was made to keep the session on topic— to focus comments on the draft environmental assessment. Although some general questions might be answered, it was made clear that the intent was not to fully answer questions so much as to collect them for incorporation into the final environmental assessment.

Each session was begun with a welcome and introduction of the new VA director, Martin J. Traxler, and a presentation from planning staff member Mary Peters summarizing the environmental assessment. That presentation, the full environmental assessment report, and its summary are available from the Louisville VA website. The large bulk of environmental questions and comments related to concerns about traffic and disruptions during the multiyear construction process itself. Continue reading “Building A New VA Hospital— What Would Robley Rex Think?”

Stopgap Bill to Provide Healthcare to Veterans Passed by Congress.

Last week, Congress finally sent to the President the “Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014.” While the “accountability” in this title refers to making heads roll among the administration of the Veterans Administration, there was clearly some embarrassment and a deficit of legislative accountability that forced a dragging-and-kicking pair of adversarial political parties to agree to bail out a Veterans Administration that had been negligently and predictably starved into delinquency.

Vets couldn’t get timely appointments.
The substance of the bill deals almost entirely with the problem that veterans were facing unacceptably long delays in obtaining appointments for medical services. Not unexpectedly, a few items from the larger mouldering VA appropriation bills were tacked on. Since these were presumably items that were easy to agree on, I predict that passing the rest of the necessary VA legislation will become even more difficult, if it passes at all. Continue reading “Stopgap Bill to Provide Healthcare to Veterans Passed by Congress.”

Patient Access Data at Veterans Hospital Medical Centers.

Mixed results at Robley Rex Hospital in Louisville but mostly better than average.

I recently commented about the reaction in Washington to revelations that veterans trying to get appointments at VA medical centers were facing long waits and that utilization data for at least a handful of centers had been altered to make them look better than they were. I was subsequently asked how our local Robley Rex VA Hospital in Louisville stacked up against others. While I have heard good things in support of the Louisville VA from veterans at public hearings, and while the hospital has done well in national accreditation and quality surveys, I had no specific information about waiting times. The release of national patient access data from the Veterans Administration in Washington gives us something to go on and will be presented below. In brief, our hospital has little to be ashamed of, but the data as presented are not easy for me to interpret.

One of the pitfalls in analysis of data-dumps like this one is that without knowledge of exactly what is being counted or measured, how items are defined, or the operational measures used to assemble the data; the robustness of any conclusions may be compromised. My lack of day-to-day working knowledge of how appointments are actually made at VA hospitals or how the various lists of waiting times were compiled for this report limits my confidence. Nonetheless, assuming the data from the various medical centers has been collected in the same way, an overview and some rough comparisons seem reasonable. Continue reading “Patient Access Data at Veterans Hospital Medical Centers.”