Sunday, April 22, 2018
Opinion

Column: Haley Veterans' Hospital committed to being top choice for vets

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin recently outlined the state of the VA and clearly said one of his top five priorities is to have all eligible veterans get their health care from VA — not because they have to, but because they want to. I'm proud to say that veterans in the Tampa Bay area already choose to get their care at James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital and Clinics.

More than 93,000 of our nation's heroes receive primary, specialty and mental health care at one of our facilities in Hillsborough, Hernando, Pasco and Polk counties. That translates to more than 1.3 million outpatient encounters each year, and that number is growing as we increase the quality of and access to our health care services.

We're a leader in VA when it comes to access. We were among the first VA facilities to offer same-day services, meaning a veteran who has an immediate need will have that need met the same day, whether through a same-day appointment, a phone consultation, prescription refills or through secure email messaging. More than 98 percent of our veterans are seen by a VA provider within 30 days, but if a veteran needs to wait more than 30 days for a procedure, they are offered the chance to see an outside provider under contract with the VA through the Veterans Choice program. We have expanded the choice program to include more than 200 different heath care professionals in our area and that number is growing.

Even when our veterans are given the option of seeing an outside provider, more than 80 percent are choosing to stay with us to get their care. That's why we continue to expand our facilities. We recently broke ground on a new community-based outpatient clinic in southern Hillsborough County, and we're also in the process of expanding our clinics in New Port Richey, Brooksville and Lakeland, all so we can improve veterans' access to care when and where they need it.

In the meantime, we want to maximize the capacity we have so we can see as many veteran patients as possible — because each has earned their health care through the service they provided to our nation. If you're a veteran and aren't getting your care from us, I encourage you reach out to our eligibility office to see what benefits are available to you.

Of course, we have challenges just like any other large organization, but we embrace a culture of continuous improvement to meet and overcome those challenges. Our sole purpose is to provide high quality health care services for our nation's heroes, and our 5,000 employees work hard to make that happen each and every day.

Joe D. Battle is director of James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital and Clinics. Haley is one of the largest and busiest medical facilities in the Department of Veterans Affairs. It provides care for more than 94,000 veterans in Hillsborough, Hernando, Pasco and Polk counties with more than 1.8 million patient visits a year. It has about 5,000 employees and an annual budget of more than $1 billion.

 
Comments
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

The passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 can be thankful that, 33 years ago, the U.S. Navy took the lead on equal opportunity.Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the flight from New York to Dallas on Tuesday when an engine exploded, blowing out a wind...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Anyone looking to make Hillsborough County government bigger, costlier, more dysfunctional and less of a regional force should love the idea that Commissioner Sandy Murman rolled out this week. She proposes enlarging the seven-member board to nine, e...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

A new foster care provider in Hillsborough County is poised to take over operations in May, only months after its predecessor was fired for what was alleged to be a pattern of failing to supervise at-risk children in its care. Many of the case manage...
Published: 04/18/18

Another voice: Back to postal reform

President Donald Trump is angry at Amazon for, in his tweeted words, "costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy." Yet in more recent days, Trump has at least channeled his feelings in what could prove...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18
Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

A bipartisan Senate bill clarifying that only the attorney general or a high-ranking designee could remove a special prosecutor would send an important message amid President Donald Trump’s attacks on the investigation into Russia’s inter...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18