Veterans oppose changes at VA Medical Center

IRON MOUNTAIN — One group of veterans who depend on the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Care Facility for their healthcare needs is concerned about their future care.

“I think they’re trying to blow smoke. I think they’re trying to make it so it’s not so obvious.”

Chuck Lantz is a United States Air Force veteran. Lantz is one of a handful of veterans that are worried about the upcoming changes to the medical facility. The VA in Iron Mountain is turning the Emergency Department into an Urgent Care Center and they’re converting for Intensive Care Unit beds to general medicine, surgery, and hospice beds.

“When I have a seizure, they will no longer have a bed for me because I will be considered intensive care,” said Lantz.

In a statement earlier this week, the VA Medical Center said that the changes set to take place “to ensure the level of care it provides matches the capability and capacity of the medical center.”

“We do appreciate the concerns of our veterans that may be concerned about some of the changes that we are making,” said Brad Nelson, the Public Affairs Officer for the VA Medical Center. “It has been our policy if ambulances were coming in with trauma patients, stroke patients or acute heart attacks, it’s been our policy to divert them to local hospitals that are better capable of treating that.”

“When I have to call or my wife has to call for an ambulance because I have a seizure, I’ll end up going to Dickinson County Hospital. Who’s going to pay those bills? The VA says they’ll pay the bills, but they won’t pay them all,” said Lantz.

Nelson added that less than 2% of the hospital’s cases involving the Emergency Department in 2014 were really classified as ’emergencies’. The VA Medical Center’s Urgent Care Center will be open 24 hours a day, just like the ER currently is.

“Our concerns is that the veterans that are experiencing emergency symptoms that they get to a hospital that can better treat them as quick as possible,” said Nelson.

“I’ve spoke with many who don’t agree with this decision. They’re afraid to talk because they’re afraid of what’s going to happen to them if they speak up,” added Lantz about the changes being made to the facility.

The changes will begin as of 12:01 a.m. this coming Monday.