Truman VA Hospital holds quarterly town hall meeting

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COLUMBIA - Mid-Missouri veterans and other guests went to a town hall meeting Tuesday to ask questions and learn more about upcoming changes at the Harry S. Truman Memorial Memorial Veterans' Hospital.

Public Affairs Officer Stephen Gaither said the meeting was technically the hospital's first quarterly meeting but held a similar one back in September.

"It's a way for us to get the input and the information from the veterans they want to share with us," Gaither said. "It can be positive information. It could be a problem that they've got, but it's just another opportunity to get that feedback."

Earlier this year, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald directed all VA facilities to hold quarterly town hall meetings to get input from their users. The town hall meetings began after whistle blowers at the Phoenix VA said there were intentional wait-time delays.

Gaither said the Columbia facility held its first meeting in September, following Secretary McDonald's decision.

"If it's a specific situation for a particular veteran, then we can follow up with that veteran," Gaither said. "Sometimes, there are [also] questions we don't have answers for."

Speakers at Tuesday's meeting addressed wait-times and said an audit found the Columbia facility did not delay them. Medical Center Director Wade Vlosich said the hospital has actually seen an improvement in wait times.

Vlosich said the hospital's mental health facility improved its wait time from 17 days to eight days. Vlosich also said response times in the special care area went from 40 days to 25.

At the town hall, Vlosich also talked about projects expected to start or finish in the next few months. He said renovations to the mental health unit should be finished by January or February. Vlosich also said crews will begin "much-needed" construction on a new parking garage in January.

Gaither said the Truman VA will hold another town hall in the next quarter.