Partnerships to Help Veterans, Rural Oklahoma Residents Need Legislators’ Support


A nurse administers treatment to a COVID-19 patient on December 8 in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at SSM Health St. Anthony Hospital in Oklahoma City, where medical equipment to treat patients was kept in the corridor to limit the exposure of nurses to the virus.  Retired General Rita Aragon says industry-government partnerships are needed to help care for veterans, including those in rural areas, who may be affected by COVID-19.

With the delta variant of COVID-19 spreading across the United States, health officials have been on high alert for any signal that it could overwhelm hospitals as previous waves of the virus have done. ‘last year. Oklahoma is no exception, as COVID-related hospitalizations threaten the availability of services for everyone.

Unless we take action now to build health care capacity, rural parts of the state could be at serious risk. Residents of rural Oklahoma have paid the highest price for past increases in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, in part because of difficulty accessing health care. Since most areas of the state outside of urban areas are considered “hot spots,” many people in rural Oklahoma do not have an easily accessible way to receive treatment. And just as rural communities have been affected, so has a key group in those communities: veterans.

That’s because a significant portion of our country’s veterans live in rural, sometimes hard-to-reach, areas, and that’s a trend here in Oklahoma. Over 270,000 Oklahomans are veterans, and they make up a notable percentage of the population in many of the state’s non-metropolitan counties.

I am pleased that we are represented by voices in Washington who are constantly working to ensure that veterans can access the care they need. Senator Jim Inhofe, for example, has always used his platform in the Senate Armed Services Committee to advocate for the women and men who have served, playing an active role in expanding access to health care. for veterans and helping to secure federal funding for hospitals. supervised by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Now, I hope Senator Inhofe and fellow Oklahoma congressmen continue to advocate for making health care more accessible to our state’s veterans – both during the remainder of the crisis we are in. find now and in the future. This way, we can make sure that no one who has served has to worry about being able to get proper treatment just because they live in a rural area.

Much of this will involve harnessing the potential of government-private sector partnerships to usher in a new way of delivering healthcare in our country, especially when it comes to ensuring that veterans have the level of access they need. Fortunately, this is a plan that is already established by the VA.

Through a partnership with Philips North America, the VA brings eICU technology to intensive care units (ICUs) in its hospitals. New technology allows intensive care experts to continuously monitor intensive care patients and consult with on-site staff, wherever they are. This way, fewer patients have to be transferred to new hospitals and will not have to travel prohibitive distances for emergency care.

Partnerships like this can become a cornerstone not only for veteran care, but for health care in the United States for years to come. To be successful, however, they will need the support of Senator Inhofe and other key lawmakers who are in a position to help them.

Retired General Rita Aragon served in the US Air National Guard and was Secretary of Veterans Affairs for Oklahoma under Governor Mary Fallin.


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