Two Tampa Bay veterans hospitals were forced to turn away ill patients because an overloaded system of care for our veterans prevented them from meeting the needs of those who have fought for their country. The James Haley VA Medical Center in Tampa and the Bay Pines VA medical Center in St. Petersburg are two of the busiest VA installations. Since 2000, Bay Pines has turned away patients about 13% of the time. Dr. George Van Buskkirk, chief of staff at Bay Pines, commented: “We’d rather send them out to a place that can take care of them than have them languish on a gurney in the hallway.”
A veteran, Dick Shockey, 77, who was turned away expressed the view, “it doesn’t seem right that a veterans hospital can ever be filled up. But veterans end up with a big surprise.” There is no doubt a crisis exists in America about treatment of veterans and as those who served in Vietnam grow older the crisis will increase. President Bush frequently has charged opponents with failing to “care about our fighting men.” Perhaps, the president might consider how he has failed to care about our veterans. His appointment of cronies to head the VA caused considerable problems which Congress now is attempting to remedy.