New VA facilities highlighted
Eagle Staff Writer
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September 13, 2017
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Chiropractic physician Zachary Cupler shows visitors the hydrotherapy pool during the open house Saturday at the Abie Abraham Department of Veterans Affairs Health Care Center in Center Township. The hydrotherapy program expands the physical rehabilitation department at the VA.

For many veterans, VA Butler Healthcare's new Abie Abraham Department of Veterans Affairs Health Care Center is a welcome addition to the community — and to their health care needs.

Hundreds of veterans and family members flocked to the new facility in Center Township on Saturday, which held an open house for veterans of all service eras, as well as their annual “Welcome Home” event for Post 9-11 veterans and their families.

The new facility, dedicated to World War II veteran Abie Abraham, is located at 353 N. Duffy Road. Several hundred veterans visited throughout the day, touring the new facility and learning about programs and services available.

The annual “Welcome Home” event is held to welcome back veterans who have recently been deployed, thank them for their service and to inform them of medical services available to them, said David Cord, director of VA Butler Healthcare.

“We took the opportunity today to do it at our brand new location and combine it with an open house of our new health care center so that the veterans who currently aren't using our system can come in, see the facility, meet the staff that actually work in all the clinical areas and talk about the programming we have,” he said.

The annual welcome home event also helps highlight community partners that serve veterans, he said.

The facility, which opened last Tuesday, offers many new services to veterans in the area, said Cherie Hawryliak, health care center program manager.

“This is a big milestone for Butler VA, and we are just very excited to showcase it to the community,” she said.

Hawryliak said the new complex features a “patient alignment care team (PACT)” model, “which will allow a veteran to go to their primary care appointment and allow all the other services to come to them.”

The entire first floor of the facility contains 95 percent of all patient destinations, she said, which allows veterans to navigate easier.

“Having a facility here that is geared about the patient experience was very important, so that a patient will feel comfortable, they won't get frustrated when they are trying to look for something, hopefully they will see some additional services that we offer that maybe they weren't aware of because everything is based around their experience,” she said.

Ron Foreman, who served in the Army in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970, and his wife Linda, said that is the aspect of the new center they like most.

“At the old place the elevators didn't work half the time,” Linda said. “We can't take stairs, we depend on elevators and now that patient care is on the first floor, that is great.”

Ron said patient appointments are now much easier to get to, rather than the old facility where they were scattered around on other floors.

“I'll miss the old place, but we needed a new one,” he said.

John Twerdok, who served in the Navy on Bikini Island in 1945, said “everything looks easy here.”

“I looked around and saw that I wouldn't have to go upstairs,” he said.

Sharon Parson, nurse executive, said this new open communication will allow for higher quality care.

“We integrated our mental health and other disciplines in with the primary care area so that they are all co-located, which is cause for greater interdisciplinary collaboration,” she said. “This space allows more efficient delivery of services.”

One new feature of the facility many officials highlighted is the hydrotherapy program, which expands the physical rehabilitation department.

Parson said these services had been a demand in the past, and are now able to be offered in-house.

“That just allows us that modality for veterans needing to have those rehabilitative services,” she said.

Hawryliak said this is the exact same type of tub used by the Steelers and Penguins in their programs.

Cord said the new facility has also allowed the health care network to not only move all outpatient services, but to bring new services in.

“We are working closely with the Pittsburgh VA to bring some of their services up here, versus sending the veterans down to Pittsburgh,” he said.

This includes cardiology services which are now offered once a week, urology which will begin next week, and more in the future, including orthopedics and more dental services.

Cord said bringing those services into the facility is much more convenient for veterans, who would otherwise have to travel to receive them.

“In my opinion, this is what the veterans earned,” he said, a veteran himself. “This is their service to our country, our commitment back to the veterans is that we will take care of you, take care of your health care needs ... This belongs to the veterans and it is our honor to serve them in this way and to provide them this health care.”

VA officials in Butler say the system currently enrolls more than 25,000 veterans in programs and services, and they expect that number to eclipse 30,000 sometime next year.

Jeff Geibel, an Army National Guard veteran who served a tour in Iraq from 2004 to 2005, said the new facility was “more than I expected walking in.”

“The first impression walking in, it doesn't look like the kind of care that people stereotype the VA for,” he said. “It looks very professional.”

Abie Abraham, the former Army master sergeant who died in 2012, was a survivor of the Bataan Death March. Following his return home, VA officials say that Abraham volunteered more than 83,000 hours at Butler VA.

He was also an instrumental part of the military's efforts to identify and repatriate the remains of soldiers who died during the Bataan Death March, a brutal 65-mile forced march in the Philippines from Mariveles to San Fernando orchestrated by the Japanese military after the surrender of about 75,000 American and Filipino troops in April 1942.