Veterans, Families Protest at Big Spring VA Hospital

By Geena Martinez
NewsWest 9

BIG SPRING - Independence Day is all about giving thanks to the men and women who have fought for our country.

On Monday, dozens of veterans wanted the same appreciation from a Big Spring hospital by protesting for better health care.

"They're going to suck all our care right out of this hospital and one day you're going to come here and it's going to be nothing but a billing center," Oleta Allen said.

That's the fear many West Texas veterans are facing and they want something done.

Allen along with several veterans are upset at what they call diminishing medical services at the VA hospital in Big Spring. They lined the hospital entrance hoping to be heard.

"Two years ago we fought to keep this place open totally," Allen said. "You come out for one service, it's not here anymore."

"People need to be able to have what they fought for and get it," Veteran, Renee Smith, said. "We worked our butts off out there."

Veterans and their families said little by little, the hospital is shutting down medical services like in-patient care, specialists referrals and they said the hospital is understaffed.

"Here they don't have very many doctors," Smith said. "When we went with my husband they said we'll see you in 30 days and its been almost four months."

But even more critical, they said they don't have access to an emergency room.

"They turned around and told me that we no longer have an emergency room and you can only use urgent care Monday through Friday and no holidays," Smith said. "What good does that do?"

"More times than not, they're directing it to a local emergency room," Veteran, Steve Campbell, said, they then face another road block.

"To get the VA to pay for that civilian care, there are at least four hoops they have to get through," Campbell said.

In a letter addressed to Veterans, VA Hospital Director Daniel Marsh said one of their goals is focusing on more services in densely populated areas, but demonstrators said this hospital serves more than just Big Spring veterans.

"You've got to understand, this is not a densely populated area but these poor men and women have to drive 200 to 300 hundred miles and there's nothing here," Allen said. "What do you do then?"

They said they'd like to see a fully-staffed hospital and they want the medical wing re-opened. They also want more specialists in the area, for them, and for those not too far behind them.

"I want the same care that was available for me, available for the next generation," Campbell said.

"You served in the country, they should take care of you," Smith said.

Several demonstrators said they moved to Big Spring specifically because of the hospital but now they're considering moving somewhere else to get the services they need.

NewsWest 9 did try contacting officials with the VA hospital about these issues but they were closed because of the federal holiday.