Local legislators hold Tomah VA town hall meeting - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Local legislators hold Tomah VA town hall meeting

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Representative Nancy VanderMeer (R-Tomah) hosted a town hall meeting on Thursday regarding the Tomah VA Medical Center and the recent allegations it has encountered.

Around 30 veterans, physicians, nurses and other local residents showed up at the meeting, sharing experiences, both good and bad, at the VA.

Rodney Helgeson has been a patient at the Tomah VA for 25 years, suffering two gun shot wounds overseas. He has also been diagnosed with PTSD.

"I went through the PTSD program about four years ago," he said. "It saved my life and it's saved the life of many veterans."

In response to the allegations against the Tomah VA for over-prescribing narcotics over the last several years, Helgeson said it's relative to what's going on in the world.

"You have to keep in mind, over the last 10 years we've had veterans returning from two combat zones," he said." So yes, the number of pills is going up with that. That accounts for some of it."

But Candace Delis had a different experience at the Tomah VA, one that changed her life forever.

On Jan. 12 her father, Thoms Baer, a 71-year-old Vietnam veteran, wasn't feeling well so she took him to the Tomah VA.

"They told us there would be a wait once we got there," she said. "We understood that, there's always a wait. But we waited two and a half hours."

Before Delis' father could be seen by a doctor, he had a stroke in the waiting room.

"I said, 'I think he had a stroke, you need to do something...please, help him,'" she said.

Her father was then moved to a room, where he suffered another stroke.

"The doctor said we need to give him the clot busting medicine, but we need to get a CT scan first," she said. "The nurse said we can't because the CT machine is down."

Doctors told Delis her father needed to be transported to Gundersen Health System in La Crosse, but it had no med-flights or ambulances available.

"They said we have an ambulance coming, but it's for a patient that had a heart attack," she said. "So they put him in that one and took him to La Crosse."

After two days at Gundersen, her father passed away, something she blames completely on the Tomah VA.

"If they had given him the clot busting medicine sooner, he might still be here," she said. "They told us there was a three hour window for the medicine to work, but at Gundersen, they said it was only an hour."

Delis said she will not return to the Tomah VA, and is telling others to do the same.

"I would say stay as far away as possible from the Tomah VA," she said.

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