Doctors' shortage at Veterans Clinic being addressed - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Doctors' shortage at Veterans Clinic being addressed

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by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - Aside from compensation, its considered one of the most important issues to the thousands of veterans living on Guam. And the island's veterans may soon see some improvements to medical care at the island's only vet clinic.

"The care back then was a lot worse," said Agat resident Ivan Babauta. He left the Marine Corps in 1993 and says he's hoping for improvement when it comes to medical attention for he and the island's thousands of veterans. "The care and the services for the veterans of Guam is very poor, very poor," he added.

Well, hope is on the way as according to Veterans Affairs Office director John Unpingco. The doctor shortage at the Community-Based Outpatient Clinic in Agana Heights may soon be a thing of the past. He explained, "I've been assured by officials from the Veterans Clinic that walk-in patients will be serviced by a doctor from Hawaii via video teleconference. And the second good news is another doctor has accepted the position which opened up as a result of Dr. (Charles) Martineau's departure. He's expected to report for duty in December or early January. And the third piece of good news is a third doctor, a Navy doctor, stationed here on Guam had indicated an interest in seeing VA patients."

Between 2,000-4,000 veterans on Guam utilize CBOC yearly. Unpingco adds CBOC's primary care physician, Dr. Helene Head, has indicated that recruitment efforts however would still continue until they're fully staffed. He further hopes to address some of the challenges with doctors at the clinic. "The biggest challenge is we don't have a teaching hospital here and for doctors they need certain amount of CME, continuing medical education credit per year and so they need that teaching clinic here," he said.

He ultimately says medical care is detrimental whether it's for veterans who are in need of post-operative care to those who are relatively healthy but need a doctor's perusal. "So there is no issue other than compensation that is more gut wrenching to a veteran," he said.

Unpingco says the partial federal government shutdown has not impacted services at CBOC nor would it hinder these doctors from coming in as this effort is considered "mission essential". 

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