Tanner visits vets in Stewart County
Posted: Friday, August 14, 2009 9:37 pm
By JOHN BRANNON
Messenger Staff Reporter
The flip side, the positive side, of health care reform manifested itself in Dover Thursday afternoon. It was not unlike a homecoming for Congressman John Tanner.
Stewart County Mayor Rick Joiner joined several Stewart County commissioners and local veterans in welcoming Tanner and two state officials — Department of Veterans Affairs commissioner John A. Keys and assistant commissioner Chuck Taylor — to the Stewart County Community Medical Center.
The purpose of Tanner’s visit was to tour the facility and receive an update on its mission from facility director Evelyn Vailencourt and to meet with veterans.
The medical center has a contract from the Veterans Administration to provide primary care services to area veterans. Specialized care cases are referred to VA Nashville and elsewhere.
According to Ms. Vailencourt, the facility operates on an outpatient basis and serves 850 veterans in a surrounding seven county area. Patients include veterans of World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom and the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Established in 1985, the center won a VA contract in the mid-1990s to provide primary care to area veterans. In 2002, the VA decided not to renew the contract. “That would have been a disaster,” Ms. Vailencourt said.
Tanner interceded on their behalf and secured funding, which allowed the facility to continue its mission of serving local veterans.
“Congressman Tanner had a huge role in renewing the contract,” Ms. Vailencourt said. “We are very appreciative of him, we thank him. His visit today is an opportunity for him to come and see what we do and meet folks face to face.”
Joiner said the medical center is a “tremendous asset” to Stewart County and the surrounding area. “If it weren’t here, veterans would have to travel to Clarksville or Paris or Nashville for medical care,” he said.
Veterans Affairs commissioner John Key said the outpatient clinic as a concept is growing and more such facilities are opening, “thanks to funding from Congress.”
“We try to have one located within 30 miles of a veterans’ place of residence as opposed to having the large medical centers,” Key said. “This one at Dover is a forerunner to the spread of these facilities. We want more Dovers.
“It’s all about the timely delivery of services and bringing those services closer to home so that you can at least get primary care. It’s all about keeping veterans healthy. Preventive care is what we’re looking at. The more we can do in preventive care, the more cost savings in the long run.”
“We owe it to veterans to continue this kind of service,” Tanner said.
Published in The Messenger 8.14.09