HELENA, Mont.- We received a tip and multiple comments from our viewers that the VA Hospital in Helena was losing the majority of its staff. Despite losing a few doctors recently, administrators at the hospital say those rumors are not true.
The VA is required to have about 37 full-time providers. They currently have 33. However, there are only two vacant positions without known replacements. Despite a few gaps in coverage, Deputy Chief of Staff Dr. Marilyn LaJoie says Fort Harrison is functioning just fine.
"Our goal is, of course, to take care of our veterans and to maintain their peace of mind as well as maintain their healthcare,” said LaJoie.
Montana has about 36,000 veterans meaning there are more than one thousand patients assigned to each provider.
“If we have three staff members who work two days a week and all three were to terminate service and we replaced them with one full-time provider, it looks like a lot more have left than actually have,” said LaJoie.
However, still, some say they aren't getting the services they need in time. We spoke with one Navy vet's wife a couple of weeks ago about extreme wait times.
“It blows my mind that they could make somebody who needs help wait for so long, because you don't know what could happen,” said Heather King.
Dr. LaJoie says outpatient wait times usually don't take longer than 30 days. However, Heather's husband sought immediate help for PTSD. He didn't get treatment until seven weeks later. LaJoie says they've implemented a program called Telehealth, a virtual medical help service, to try to help vets get help with just the click of a button.
The Montana VA plans to hire more qualified
“Anything that can be done to improve the care that we render to veterans. We are very grateful for,” said LaJoie.personal and expand some of their healthy initiative programs.