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Local VA care compares favorably to national average

The head of the Buffalo VA hospital says things are getting better but there is a ways to go. The veterans agency has been under siege for a while, to the point where its cabinet secretary quit and the new secretary says he has a purge list of top executives. Across the country, there have been serious problems in some hospitals.

The small turnout at a Town Hall event Thursday nigh suggests there aren't big problems here, with Medical Center Director Brian Stiller says big changes are underway, from structural renovations to make the Bailey Avenue building work better to millions of dollars of purchases of outside health care.

Navy veteran Stiller says he knows of those problems personally.

"I needed to see a specialist and our only specialist that we had left us. And so, I was one of the greater than 30 days veterans. And, I kept saying, no, let everybody go ahead and everybody kept saying you're an idiot because you're making our numbers look bad," Stiller said.

Those numbers reflect how quickly a veteran sees a hospital staffer, with 90 percent seen within 30 days, a rate that compares favorably to the national average. Stiller says his hospital is on track to spend $22 million this year for purchase of outside health care, up from $18 million last year.

He says some of that will be cut when an already-purchased MRI scanner is finally delivered and installed.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.