Monday, February 20, 2017

Topeka VA Delivers Care While Searching for Psychiatrist

Care continues at the Topeka VA during difficult search for a psychiatrist
Topeka Capital Journal
Justin Wingerter
February 19, 2017
Bob Portenier, a Vietnam combat veteran and former PCT patient who raised alarms when the PTSD psychiatrist transferred in December, said he was referred to a mental health clinic and has been impressed with the care he received.

Dr. Michael Leeson, chief of behavioral services at the Colmery-O’Neil
VA Medical Center, speaks during an interview at the hospital Wednesday.
(Thad Allton/The Capital-Journal)

Eight weeks after the Department of Veterans Affairs announced it would transfer its lone post-traumatic stress disorder psychiatrist at Colmery-O’Neil VA Medical Center to another department — worrying veterans who had come to rely on the doctor — PTSD patients and hospital administrators say treatment has largely continued unabated.

On the third floor of Building 2, three psychologists, a nurse and an administrative clerk care for minds wounded by war. Together, they make up the PTSD Clinical Team, or PCT in hospital parlance.

Before mid-December, they were joined by a psychiatrist. When the psychiatrist left to work in the hospital’s understaffed inpatient ward for severe mental health crises, veterans feared a loss of the doctor they had come to trust — the one who knew them, knew their stories and knew their conditions.

Patients with few symptoms were transferred to the primary care wing. Patients who did not require medications were transferred to the three PCT psychologists. Others chose to seek treatment outside the hospital through the VA’s choice program.
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