Keene Supervisor William “Bill” Ferebee said he wanted to be the new head of the Essex County Veteran’s Committee because, as a fellow veteran, he wanted to make sure they were taken care of.
For him, that includes making sure there is a doctor at the local VA Clinics.
Ferebee said that he was concerned that there are no doctors at present at either the Westport VA clinic or at the Saranac Lake satellite office, although it offers tele-medicine technology.
“I asked to be put on this committee because my concern is being a veteran myself, is the services that they are offering,” Ferebee said during the Jan. 9 public safety committee meeting. “They have currently no doctor on staff in Westport and that is odd to me. All along when the VA chose to move out of the Elizabethtown Community Hospital that was a concern of the veterans and it has appeared to have come true.”
Ferebee related an experience for a recent visit.
“I was in the other day just to set up a routine appointment for myself and here are two older veterans that desperately needed to see a doctor and they were told there was none and that they couldn’t give them an appointment because they didn’t know when they would have a doctor or they could go to Saranac Lake to do the computer tele-medicine,” Ferebee said.
Westport Supervisor Daniel Connell said that he felt the same way as Ferebee.
“I just want to reiterate that is absolutely right,” Connell said. “All the discussion that we had about changing the VA clinic was, long term, they have never been able to keep a doctor and at least when they were at the hospital, if they didn’t have their doctor, they were in a medical facility that had doctors. So this is no surprise to any of us or to any of the veterans who attended all of the meetings. We absolutely knew this was going to happen and said it was going to happen and now it is happening.”
Ferebee said that he would be speaking with federal legislators to get his point across.
“My focus is to get with Congressman Owens and Congressman Gibson to try and bring light to our situation again,” Ferebee said. “I mean it is not the right way to treat out veterans or anyone, so that is one of my primary goals as being appointed to this committee.”
Recently, the doctor assigned to the clinics in Westport and Saranac Lake left, citing family issues. Authorities with the VA Clinic said that there is no thought of closure for either site and that urgent care will be contracted out to local physicians.