Maui vets worried over loss of doctor
WAILUKU » Some veterans are upset about losing their only primary care physician at the federal veterans clinic on Maui.
"It's not much of a clinic without a doctor," said Randy "RO" Orkisch, who served as an Army paratrooper medic in the Vietnam War. "It's sad. We did our job. Now the government's not doing its job."
Some 10,000 veterans live in Maui County, including more than 1,500 enrolled as clients at the clinic, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs Pacific Islands Health Care System.
Officials in charge of the health care system said they became aware about the physician's intent to leave the Maui Community Based Outpatient Clinic on Aug. 15 and began immediately to actively recruit for a replacement.
The physician, Dr. James Santoro, will be leaving on Oct. 1.
Meanwhile, a resident nurse practitioner will provide internal medicine support backed by visiting physician specialists from Oahu and the mainland, according to the VA health care system.
An internal medicine physician from Oahu will visit the veterans clinic on Maui intermittently, the Health Care System said.
Dr. James Hastings, the system's director, said the VA staff plans to make maximum use of technology, especially telemedicine, and wants to assure the veterans community and their families on Maui that they'll continue to receive a high level of care.
Several veterans said they think the staff and nurses at the clinic on Maui do a good job but need a physician on the site to provide health services.
Robert Douglas, an Air Force veteran, said the absence of a physician at the clinic "scares the hell out of me."
He said there are people with heart problems and people who are diabetics who rely upon the clinic for primary care.
Douglas said the clinic had two physicians but lost the other one some years back.
David Judd, a member of Vietnam Veterans of Maui County, said getting a physician to visit the veterans clinic on Maui isn't the same as having a doctor working full-time at the clinic.
"A lot of times, guys need to see a doctor, and you can't wait until next week," Judd said.
Orkisch said he's 100 percent disabled as a result of service in the Vietnam War.
"The VA is my whole life," he said.
Orkisch said Vietnam veterans were active years ago in trying to get better health care for veterans on the Valley Isle and was happy to see the establishment of the veterans clinic.
"It looks like we're going backward," he said.