I spent some time yesterday in an Urgent Care office about three miles from our house reading a local newspaper (LINK) while my old Marine was getting his broken toe tended to. A letter authored by Al Walsky of Berkshire (VT) grabbed my attention. Mr Walsky is an involved citizen who attends legislative meetings to share his opinions. He lives alone. It is not online so here are some excerpts:
“Although this veteran survived the devastating Tet Offensive in Vietnam my life nearly ended on my kitchen floor on July 6th as a “death of benign neglect” due to cuts in the veteran healthcare and social services. The cause of my near death experience was undiagnosed septic pneumonia. I was so weak I couldn’t even sit up.”
The Rescue Squad got him to Northwestern Medical Center (not part of UVM’s monopoly) where he spent three inpatient days getting the care he needed. Worried about finances, he left a day early.
He blasted his state Rep. Murphy (Transportation Com. member) as “very cold and unresponsive” to his needs as a legally blind veteran and hopes she isn’t re-elected.
“Getting to necessary medical appointments is problematic for veterans who have to depend on charity…
From what I can determine, the nearest VA clinic ( VISN 1) is about 37 miles (as those pesky crows fly?) away in Newport, and Burlington is about 53 miles away–so it’s possible he hasn’t been able to get non-VA “choice” appointments closer to his home. Traveling these roads in winter is very risky.
He has a warning for everyone: “During convalescence I’ve found the services of the Visiting Nurses, the home aid program, and Meals on Wheels program to be problematic.” Why? Because he wasn’t deemed a falling risk, the nurses “refused” him. The Home Aid told him his house was too messy and Meals on Wheels restricted him to their timetable. No haircuts were available through home aid either.
He makes a number of other salient points and ends with “I am documenting my health concerns so that should I die there will be an audit trail to prevent other deaths.”
There is one bus going through Berkshire to St. Albans–a large town for Vermont. The bus makes several stops but does not go to the hospital and its doctor offices! Someone has to walk, according to G–maps, 19 minutes for health care–on a nice day with no disabilities to contend with.
My thoughts. Non-Va care is supposed to be much more available next year, but that’s next year. Meals on Wheels is a good program but local grocery stores could fill in if they had home delivery services. Computer access is not a given in the boonies but one could order food from Amazon. Local stores, if you don’t want us to order online, show us that you want our business and deliver. The Home Aid’s comment: Well, when old folks are sick, and legally blind, the dusting doesn’t get done well. That’s why you have a job. If the pay was better, would the employee be more sensitive? In these uncivil days…..hard to say. Haircuts–yes, this is an issue and many nice retirement communities have onsite salons. But the cost is prohibitive for many. Occasionally a local church will hold a “free haircuts” day.
Then there are some folk who like their privacy and their walls. Although Robert Frost’s narrator questioned wall building in his poem, Mending Walls (LINK) his neighbor said, “Good fences make good neighbours.” Rural isolation and beauty calms until it doesn’t because it gets too hard to cope with what used to be sheer pleasure.
VA transportation sometimes contracts with van services that are located miles away from where the actual need is instead of working with local transporters.
Rural transportation takes good neighbors and representatives that give a damn when times are tough.