Protests continue in front of Tuscaloosa VA Hospital

Published: Sep. 1, 2022 at 4:38 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 2, 2022 at 4:35 AM CDT
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WBRC) - Protests continue in front of the VA Hospital in Tuscaloosa. Nurses say there are still problems ranging from a shortage of nurses to contract issues. All this even after VA leaders say they worked to correct some of the challenges. One veteran admitted that yes, the VA is making progress in some areas, but still feels the protests are necessary to make sure the VA follows through to correct all the issues.

Daphne James has been a nurse practitioner for more than 20 years. She joined the dozen nurses protesting and chanting outside the VA on September 1.

“It means progress,” James said.

James acknowledges VA leaders have made progress, implementing six of the nine recommendations as recommended by the VA Inspector General’s office.

WBRC reached out to the VA to learn exactly what they’ve done so far to fix the problems so far and what else they plan to do. What we do know is the inspector general’s office released a 51-page report earlier this summer that gave evidence of the major complaints such as failure to fill key staff positions and a failure to address security concerns and safety issues that led to patients leaving the property.

“It’s been over two years now and we’re still dealing with management,” James said.

Jennifer Gilds says they’re protesting for four reasons. They range from patient-staffing ratio to contract issues.

“We also want flexible staffing options. We want flexible staffing that is utilized in other VAs,” said Gilds.

“It’s very frustrating when you’re trying to take care of patients with limited staffing,” James added.

VA leadership submitted this response to the OIG Report inquiry.

The VA OIG report focused on events that occurred in July 2021. Since then, seven of the nine recommendations have been fully addressed, with the remaining two scheduled to be completed by the end of October.

Most recommendations were related to the physical safety of building structures and the overall upkeep of facilities and grounds. The Tuscaloosa VAMC took immediate action to ensure that our physical environments are conducive to providing safe, high-quality care for our Veterans. We are committed to improving as we deliver a wide range of healthcare to the Veterans in West Alabama.

VA leadership

VA submitted this response on September 1.

“We at VA are so grateful for the work that VA nurses do to deliver world-class healthcare to Veterans. This has been particularly critical during the pandemic when nurses across the country have risked their own lives to save and improve the lives of Veterans.

One of VA’s top priorities right now is recruiting, hiring, and retaining our great nurses. To do that, VA has advocated strongly for the PACT Act and RAISE Act — both of which have given us increased authorities to raise pay caps for VA nurses across the country. We have also maximized bonuses and retention incentives to reward VA nurses for their excellent work and keep them at VA, where they belong.

We will continue to work together with our valued labor partners to provide the best possible work experience for VA’s nurses, so they can deliver the best possible health care to the Veterans we serve.”

VA Press Secretary Terrance Hayes


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