ONLY ON KHQ: Former VA doctor explains cutback in emergency room - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

ONLY ON KHQ: Former VA doctor explains cutback in emergency room hours

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In an exclusive interview with KHQ's Dylan Wohlenhaus Dr. Todd Garman explains what led up to the VA cutting its emergency hours in half. In an exclusive interview with KHQ's Dylan Wohlenhaus Dr. Todd Garman explains what led up to the VA cutting its emergency hours in half.
SPOKANE, Wash. - "I dont see any one person to blame for this. It's a system problem."

In an exclusive interview with KHQ's Dylan Wohlenhaus, Dr. Todd Garman explains what led up to the Spokane Veterans Affairs Medical Center cutting its emergency hours in half. 

Garman was hired in 2006 by the VA and soon moved in to the emergency room. He voluntarily stepped away from his position in August after saying the workload became too much and the resources too little. 

"Right away when I started working there I was impressed. Everybody seemed nice, friendly and dedicated to their job." Garman says. During the 2008 recession Garman says, "All of a sudden it was harder to get workers. Nurses would leave, there would be no replacement, doctors would leave." 

That's when the issues started happening.

Wednesday the Spokane Mann-Grandstaff Veterans Affairs Medical Center said it was cutting emergency room operating hours in half, and it will now only be open from 8 AM to 6 PM daily. The VA cited staffing issues for the cutback. It says it's planning on the reduced operating hours to only be through late Spring 2015. 

In a statement Wednesday, the hospital is asking that anyone seeking emergency room care during off hours do so at another hospital and notify the VA within 72 hours of treatment. Linda Reynolds, the medical center's director, said in a statement the Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center "will continue to work closely with these hospitals to assure that our patients with critical illness receive seamless care when the need arises."

During his 8 years as a doctor at the VA Garman, says he and his staff suggested that 9 were needed to run the ER 24 hours. "But we never got to 9. At best we were at seven. Seven became six. Six became five. In the last year and a half it was four." 

Garman says they were always given the response that "there were budget issues." Garman says he was surprised it took as long as it did to cut back the hours in the VA emergency room because the issues were mounting. 

Spokane VA officials directed our questions to a spokeswoman, Megan Crowley with the VA in Vancouver, Wash. She told KHQ's Dylan Wohlenhaus that there will be two ER doctors on staff during the reduced hours, but that the VA is contracting with a company to bring in more doctors if need be.

Dr. Garman says, "The general mission of the VA is wonderful. Trying to take care of veterans is an honor." But he says "The budget is not endless. Someone is making decisions about where the money goes. It's hard to know whether we have enough money to fund the system the way we should or whether the money is not going where it should."

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