Holiday Preparations

Several small American flags wave in the breeze Wednesday afternoon after being placed at the end of West Street in St. Clair by resident Cathy Johnson. Johnson, who lives on that street, placed the flags there as well as in the yards of every residence on the street in recognition of Memorial Day on Monday. In all, Johnson used 52 flags to decorate her street.   

While the national VA health care system has been plagued by a scandal involving delayed care for veterans and manipulated waiting lists, the Washington clinic has been spared from the problems, an official said.

The Missourian obtained information from the VA in St. Louis to see how the local clinic is doing in the wake of the controversy that has included allegations of patients dying while waiting for care and led to the resignation of the system’s former director.

The Washington clinic does not have a patient waiting list for services, according to Marcena Gunter, public affairs officer with the VA St. Louis — John Cochran Division.

There is usually same-day availability for appointments, according to Gunter.

Asked if there are any changes being made to the Washington clinic in the wake of the VA controversy

nationwide, Gunter responded, “The Washington (community-based outpatient clinic) has never had an issue with veteran access to care and has sufficient capacity to serve our veterans expeditiously.”

The clinic had 4,203 outpatient visits in fiscal year 2013 and is expected to exceed that number this year, according to the VA.

Gunter added that the clinic will see walk-ins and that no appointment is needed for lab work.

The clinic also provides mental health services and health promotion and disease prevention services.

Two primary care providers and a psychologist work at the clinic.

Veterans Ride Program

Last year, a free ride service to transport veterans from Washington to the St. Louis VA was started.

Volunteer drivers transport six to nine veterans each week for medical appointments, Gunter said.

It would be nice if four more volunteer drivers could be recruited so there would be sufficient back up so one driver would not have to drive on consecutive days, she said.

“Our drivers are fantastic!” Gunter responded. “They really enjoy spending that time with fellow service members. Volunteering is a wonderful way to give back. You do not have to be a veteran to volunteer, but many of our volunteers have served in the military or have close family members that served.”

Prospective volunteer drivers are screened and should have a clean driving record. They are also given a physical examination as part of the clearance process, she added.

From May of 2013 to May of 2014, the ride service transported 175 veterans, logging over 14,000 miles, Gunter said.

Veterans who need a ride may contact the Washington coordinator at (314) 478-3144.