Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes ofwebsite accessibilityVeterans say they've received good care at Tomah VA hospital | WLUK
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Veterans say they've received good care at Tomah VA hospital

Town hall meeting
Town hall meeting
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TOMAH, Wis. (AP) - From their wheelchairs and church pews, veterans at a Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Wisconsin on Thursday night defended the embattled facility where they receive their care.Veterans filled the chapel at the Tomah facility for a town hall meeting. For two hours they rose one by one and defended physicians there, dismissing reports about narcotic overprescribing practices and retaliatory behavior at the hospital.Ryan Van De Walker spoke about care he received from David Houlihan, the hospital's chief of staff who's now on leave. The Tomah facility was dubbed "Candy Land" by some veterans for the reportedly liberal prescribing practices under Houlihan, who was placed on administrative leave pending the completion of investigations at the hospital. The VA, the VA Office of the Inspector General and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration have launched separate probes into allegations against the hospital.Van De Walker said Houlihan helped him deal with his post-traumatic stress disorder and streamlined his care at the facility."I spent years getting to know my doctors and now I have to start from scratch," he said.Another veteran, Stephon Perryman, told the assembly that he had a close bond with his nurse, Deb Fraser, whom he said helped him wean off of high doses of painkillers."Once these things get in your system it's hard, and I mean hard, to get off of it," Perryman said, trying to keep himself from crying.A VA report Tuesday said patients at the hospital have a higher likelihood of receiving high doses of narcotics including opioids than those at other VA hospitals. The report also found a culture of fear among employees that compromised patient care.Jason Simcakoski, a 35-year-old Marine, died of an overdose in the hospital's inpatient care unit in August.Others brought up complaints. They said the hospital should offer more female care physicians and the Tomah VA should open a swimming pool for aquatic therapy. One woman read a letter about her father's death at the facility and was quickly escorted out by hospital spokeswoman Stephanie McCrobie. McCrobie said she took the woman out of the meeting to follow up about her concern.Mario DeSanctis, the facility director, led the event, addressing each person who spoke and saying the hospital's administrators would try to make sure all concerns were addressed."We are going through some difficult times, but we are going to get through them because out number one mission is taking care of you," DeSanctis told the crowd.The VA on Monday launched an opioid safety tool ahead of the results of its probes at Tomah. DeSanctis said the hospital is looking at alternative therapies including massage and acupuncture to treat chronic pain.
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