The American Legion will try again to hear from Douglas County veterans, and this time Legion officials will be prepared to discuss the topic vets most want to talk about: the lack of an intensive care unit at the Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
The Oregon office of the American Legion said it will address grievances of veterans who use the Roseburg VA at a second town hall meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at American Legion Post No. 16, 406 S.E. Oak Ave.
A meeting put on last month by a Legion task force that inspects care at VA hospitals around the country drew more than 100 veterans.
Many who went wanted to raise concerns about the Roseburg facility’s lack of an intensive care unit. The VA closed the unit in 2009. Vets brought up the death of retired Army Sgt. Ray Velez, who last summer went into the local VA facility for hernia surgery and died en route to a Springfield hospital after falling ill. Many veterans said they believed his death could have been prevented if the Roseburg VA had an ICU.
The meeting descended into shouting at panelists when audience members felt they weren’t being heard. National field representative Edward Lilley was booed when he tried to pass over the ICU issue.
Douglas County Veterans Forum President Jim Little said today he’s pessimistic the second meeting will be any more useful than the first, which he called “absolutely ridiculous” and a “waste of time.”
“I’m real skeptical about it,” he said.
American Legion leaders said the panelists were unprepared to discuss the topic. Representatives will be ready this time, the Legion’s Oregon adjutant, Don Epperson, said.
“They’ll be there to listen to those issues,” he said.
Epperson said his office has heard plenty about the ICU issue since the last town hall meeting in Roseburg.
“They were shooting salvos up this way, saying, ‘Stay out of Douglas County veterans issues,’” he said.
The Roseburg VA has no plans to reopen the ICU. A VA representative has said it was closed because it saw too few patients.
Roseburg VA Director Carol Bogedain attended but did not speak at the last meeting. VA spokeswoman Carrie Boothe could not confirm a VA representative would attend the upcoming meeting.
- You can reach reporter Garrett Andrews at 541-957-4218 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.