By PAUL J. YOUNG, City News Service:
Riverside County Regional Medical Center's chief executive told the Board of Supervisors this week that military veterans in need of care will not be turned away for any reason, alluding to a national scandal that resulted last week in the ouster of an Obama administration official.
"We're aware of the shameful display of service not given to veterans in other parts of the country," said RCRMC CEO Lowell Johnson. "I have a message to every veteran in this room and in our county -- veterans are welcome at RCRMC. We have the capacity to serve veterans. Every veteran will be served. No one will be turned away."
Johnson spoke to the board ahead of a vote on a policy item concerning appropriations for billboards to advertise the hospital's services.
The medical center administrator, who was appointed last fall under a $1.2 million contract, is part of a team hired to reverse the financially ailing hospital's fortunes.
"Every service line at our hospital provides for veterans every day," Johnson said. "Homeless veterans come to our door every day. Everyone is served."
Johnson vowed that veterans who contact RCRMC about a healthcare need will be "seen within 24 hours," regardless of the type of insurance -- or lack thereof -- to which they subscribe.
The CEO said the medical center just activated a hotline specifically aimed at facilitating services for veterans: (951) 830-8025.
Johnson said if a vet calls and speaks with a hospital employee or leaves a message on the answering service after 5 p.m., the caller should anticipate hearing back on what steps to take by the following day.
"If you aren't seen within 24 hours, call me directly," he said, at (951) 486-4470.
Johnson offered his thanks to those who have served, acknowledging that "you have given a tremendous amount for our freedom, so the least we can do is help you with your medical needs."
Late last week, U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned in the wake of revelations that veterans throughout the country were being routinely denied medical services at VA hospitals.
An inspector general's report found waiting lists were being manipulated at one facility to conceal the fact that veterans were unable to receive treatment for months at a time. Similar findings came to light at more than three-dozen other VA facilities nationwide, pointing to "systemic" failures within the system, according to published reports. Some vets died waiting for rationed care.
The RCRMC item approved by the Board of Supervisors Tuesday clears the way for the Moreno Valley hospital to lease two billboards along the 60 and 215 freeways over the next 6.5 months. The advertisements, which will require a $49,360 commitment from the county, will highlight "RCRMC (as) a certified stroke center that renders the highest quality of intervention and care for victims of stroke," according to a policy agenda document.
U.S. News & World Report will be recognizing the medical center as a "Top Stroke Care Provider" in its 2014 edition of best hospitals, according to Johnson.