Nobody is happy.
There are big problems at the Memphis VA Hospital, and those problems concern people.
For three years in a row, this hospital only received a one-star rating.
Only five VA hospitals in the country have that dubious distinction.
Too many people die at the Memphis VA Hospital, according to a survey done by the Veterans Administration.
There is also a problem with infections.
Hospitals are protected places.
From the outside, the only thing people can see is that the Veterans Administration Hospital now offers free valet parking.
It’s the inside of a hospital that is important.
There have been stories of bad operations, of waiting for hours for an appointment, of getting the wrong treatment.
Iraqi war veteran John Benson says, “I heard those stories before I came to Memphis.”
John was at the end of his rope, a drug addict who was sick and tired of being sick and tired, and he voluntarily entered rehab at the VA.
“They were great while I was there,” he said. “I did a 45-day rehab and the peer counselors were really passionate and the doctors were really helpful.”
Former Marine Robin Greer has been in quite a few VA hospitals.
“I am a Vietnam-era veteran,” he says.
Greer is not the kind of guy who will be told what to say.
He says what he feels – good, bad, whatever – if it’s on his mind, he says it.
And for Greer, the Memphis VA Hospital has been good to him.
Not to say they couldn’t stand some improvements.
He’s been to other VA Hospitals, in Wisconsin, and yes, they were different.
“On a scale of one to ten,” Greer says, “… I would give Milwaukee an eight and a half, Madison, Wisconsin an eight, and I would give this one (Memphis) a six and a half or seven.”
The man in charge of Alpha Omega Veterans Services in Memphis has been working with vets for more than 30 years.
Cordell Walker says he has seen improvements.
“We have seen changes,” he says. “The waiting lists are not as long. Our clients have been treated pretty well at the VA. We’ve seen an uptick in appointments being more timely.”
There are other stories.
Of being refused treatment, and needing to call Congressman Steve Cohen for help.
He says the mortality rate at the Memphis VA Hospital is, in his words, “unconscionable.”
But Cohen says there have been improvements, and is impressed, so far, by the recent hiring of David Dunning.
“The problems have festered,” he says, “and he’s got a tough job. But VA employees now rate the Memphis Hospital the fourth best in the system to work at, when it was about 100 in the previous report. And even the mortality rate, while still much too high, has gone down by half since he’s been there.”