Louisiana VA whistle-blower joins hospital leaders to improve care

Megan Knowles - Print  | 

After exposing significant problems at Shreveport, La.-based Overton Brooks Veterans Affairs Medical Center, veteran Shea Wilkes is teaming up with hospital leadership to improve care, KTBS reports.

Mr. Wilkes, a mental health counselor, blew the whistle on a secret wait list and scheduling manipulations at Overton Brooks four years ago. The VA has been criticized for long periods veterans wait before getting an appointment at medical centers and for manipulating schedules to make wait times seem shorter.

Last year, Mr. Wilkes wrote a letter to President Donald Trump that prompted action to help veterans get specialist care.

The Veterans Affairs Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection developed a program earlier this year to e help those like Mr. Wilkes fix problems at the medical centers as opposed to just reporting the issues.

Mr. Wilkes started meeting weekly with Overton Brooks Director Richard Crockett, and the two have worked to improve care by making it easier for employees to report problems directly to Mr. Crockett.

On Overton Brooks' webpage, employees can write about concerns or ideas for the hospital. If employees do not feel their supervisor is addressing a problem, they can submit an electronic form that goes directly to Mr. Crockett.

Although the web tool isn't new, Mr. Wilkes says it's been underutilized.

"Why don't we build this up a little bit? Why don't we add to it? And why don't we educate folks on it?" Mr. Wilkes asked.

"It helps the staff do their job better, which is to take care of our veterans," Mr. Crockett said.

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