Northampton VA makes improvements as Obama nominates new VA Secretary

New women's health center to open and less wait time for specialty care

FILE - This Sept. 22, 2011 file photo shows Robert McDonald, CEO and president of Procter & Gamble, speaking at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York. President Barack Obama is selecting the former Procter and Gamble executive as his choice to be secretary of Veterans Affairs, an administration official said Sunday, June 29, 2014. McDonald, 61, is a native of Gary, Ind., who grew up in Chicago. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – Monday afternoon, President Obama officially nominated former Proctor & Gamble CEO and veteran Bob McDonald as the new Secretary of the troubled Department of Veterans Affairs. 22News found out what this meant to the Central Western VA Medical Center in Northampton.

The Senate has until August 1 to approve Obama’s choice of McDonald as the Secretary of the VA. However, even if they do, many have said it’s going to take more than a new leader to make improvements to the system.

“It comes down to the money for the hospitals and I mean you can change leaders and do whatever they want but they need funding,” said active air force member Derek Thayer. He said many active duty military are concerned about how they will get jobs and medical treatment when they retire.

Some have said the VA needs to be led by someone who has business experience as well as military experience. Thayer agreed: “It’ll help that he’s been in the civilian world and he’s dealt with both sides and that’s what you need to create a balance instead of being, like politics, extreme left, extreme right.”

Northampton VA Medical Center Spokeswoman Amy Gaskill said it was too early to know how McDonald would be as their new leader. She said they have been making improvements regardless of Shinseki’s resignation.

The White House found shortcomings when it comes to treatment for the increasing number of women veterans. Here at the Northampton VA, they’ve been treating women veterans since the 70s and they’re finishing up construction on a clinic just for women’s health.

The percentage of women veterans has grown from about 2% in the 1970’s to 15%, with 10% of women veterans getting treatment through the VA. Gaskill said women’s health wasn’t one of the specialty areas that led to the Northampton VA ranking tenth worst in the nation for specialty treatment wait times just weeks ago.

“We’re able to bring our numbers down to less than 30 days to be seen in almost any of our clinics. One of our biggest struggles is optometry so we’ve done a lot working with our communities to get our folks out to the communities to see optometrists,” said Gaskill.

The Northampton VA will be reevaluated as early as Tuesday. Stay with 22News as we discover the results of that evaluation.

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