The Department of Veterans Affairs has recently announced they will be adding 1,900 new Mental Health personnel. Of the 1,900, 1,600 will be doctors, nurses, and PAs. The additional 300 slots will be for administrative support. Which VISN gets what has not been announced, but the announcement indicated these workers will be disbursed throughout the entire Veterans healthcare system. I salute Congress, and President Barack Obama for seeing the urgent need for these workers, and allocating resources to meet the need.
It appears the VA is trying to get ahead of the wave of new Veterans returning from Iraq, and Afghanistan. Many of these men, and women have been sent on multiple tours, and have seen things they will never talk about. Studies show the decade after a war ends is the costliest part of waging war. The physical, and mental wounds these men, and women have will take time, and money to begin the healing process.
It appears the lessons the VA learned from Vietnam were not forgotten; however, this increase may be insufficient, or the needs may be greater elsewhere, during any given time, in the decade beyond these wars. Currently the Department of Veterans Affairs is struggling to meet the Primary Healthcare needs of millions of Veterans. In my humble opinion, the VA should have concurrently allocated additional funding to recruit, and retain quality Primary Care Doctors. I know there is a shortage. I see it in my own VA, and read stories of other veterans struggling to access Primary Care.
Let us not forget how crucial the role of a Primary Care giver is to overall good healthcare. Ideally the Primary Care doctor is the main player in a person’s healthcare. If a person has a problem outside the scope of the Primary Care doctor, a referral, and consultation should follow; however, if the Primary Care doctors are overwhelmed with their current workload, we cannot expect them to be effective.
I am hoping to hear the VA will allocate funding for more Primary Care doctors. Not just a body, but good quality doctors. Incentives should be maximized. One incentive to lure quality physicians is to pay off their student loans, and I am sure those who know more than me can come up with even better ways to recruit, and retain top Quality Physicians. It is my hope that the 1,900 additional VA workers will be recruited based on quality, not quantity.
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