Augusta VA gets national recognition

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March 27, 2007

AUGUSTA, Ga.---Augusta's Uptown VA is doing things right when it comes to what the military calls "warrior care."

Since the scandal broke in Washington about conditions at Walter Reed, Augusta's VA has been receiving patients from that many as five a week.

Today, US Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) praised what the Augusta VA's Active Duty Rehab has been able to accomplish because of General Eric Schoomaker.

"Before he came to Walter Reed, he was at Eisenhower AMC in Augusta, Georgia, and he's the best kept secret, what he had done there," Sen. Isakson said.

It's not a secret anymore. Sen. Isakson spoke of Gen. Schoomaker's accomplishments at a VA hearing on Capitol Hill. Gen. Schoomaker has now taken over the embattled Walter Reed.

Sen. Isakson praised the facility Schoomaker was instrumental in creating, Augusta's Uptown VA Active Rehab Unit--the only one of its kind in a VA facility.

"People saw this as an opportunity to serve and to do something unique and create something new that had not been done before," said Active Duty Rehab Unit director Dr. Dennis Hollins.

And they've been doing it well, if the trust the Army's placed in them is any indication.

Unlike at Walter Reed, there are no delays in treatment.

"Not only do they not have to wait for therapy, they can get more therapy, two sessions of PT, two of occupational therapy, one to two sessions of speech therapy, two clinical psychologists and a psychiatrist," Dr. Hollins said.

It is a level of care our wounded warriors deserve, says Dr. Hollins, and that's what he tells his patients.

"Years from now, when you're a grandparent, you'll be glad you worked hard, because you don't get this anywhere else," he said.

I asked Dr. Hollins, "So if we're doing it right, the question becomes can we do it to serve more active duty?"

"Yeah, I'm sure we can," he replied. "You need staff who's aware of and is comfortable with and supportive of our military."

Another part of that answer is this: there are 30 more beds that can be put into use with additional staff at any time.

The question is: will Gen. Schoomaker send more patients from Walter Reed than he has already?

Dr. Hollins told me he hopes so, because as he says "that's their mission."

We have some good news about a former VA patient we previously featured on News 12. Spc. Crystal Davis, who lost her leg in Iraq in an IED blast, came to Augusta's VA because there was a wait at Walter Reed for physical therapy.

She's now doing so well, she's no longer an inpatient at the VA and is now at Eisenhower.

Click here to see what Sen. Isakson had to say about Augusta's VA.

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