Sen. President Treat: MRHC could be veterans care model

JAMES BEATY | Staff photoFrom left, District 7 State Sen. Larry Boggs, R-Red Oak, is joined by Oklahoma State Sen. President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, R-Edmond, on Thursday during a tour of the Emergency Department at the McAlester Regional Health Center.

Oklahoma State Sen. President Pro Tempore Greg Treat toured part of the McAlester Regional Health Center on Thursday and later spoke of how impressed he felt at what he saw.

Treat especially mentioned the hospital's Veterans Administration Outpatient Clinic.

"I was wondering if it could be a model for across the state," Treat said.

District 43 State Rep. Jay Stegall also made the trip to tour the hospital's Emergency Department and its VA Outpatient Clinic at the invitation of District 7 State Sen. Larry Boggs, R-Red Oak.

Stegall serves as chairman for the House Veterans Caucus and is a member of the House Military and Veterans Committee. He's a veteran of both the U.S. Army and the U.S. Air Force, and is a retired KC-135 aircraft pilot.

Senate President Treat told MRHC CEO David Keith he came to the McAlester hospital "to listen and learn."

When a question came up regarding opioid use, Keith told Treat that the McAlester Regional Health Center had reduced its opioid dispensation by 50%.

Prior to the tour of the facilities, Keith told the lawmakers that the hospital's Emergency Department allowed for an expansion from the 6,000 square feet available at the hospital's previous Emergency Room to 21,000 square feet in the new ED.

Keith said it's one of the best in Oklahoma because MRHC representatives visited other emergency rooms around the state and utilized what they liked best about each of the facilities.

As Treat and Stegall began a tour of the the hospital's Emergency Department and VA Clinic, Treat said "It's a lot more beneficial for me to see it myself rather than hear about it at the Capitol."

Kim Stout, of MRHC, led the ED portion of the tour, pointing out its many features.

Lee Martin, director of Facilities and Construction Management at MRHC and a veteran himself, led the tour of the VA Clinic at the McAlester hospital.

Asked afterward about his impressions, Sen. President Treat said "I was impressed with the veterans unit at the hospital."

One of the unique things at MRHC is having the VA Clinic placed in an existing hospital facility.

"McAlester may be a model" for the rest of the state, he said.

Treat said he's in a position to make such a suggestion "if it's the best way to serve our veterans" and he said Sen. Boggs can influence policy.

He also said the Emergency Department is one of the best he's seen. Treat spoke of how impressed he felt with the Emergency Department 's layout.

Treat also spoke of and how impressed he felt about what Keith said was the 50% decrease in opioid dispensations at the hospital.

The Senate president said it's important McAlester is recognized as a regional medical hub.

"It  has a huge impact on he health of Southeast Oklahoma," Treat said.

He said he'd heard a lot about the McAlester hospital, including the way  it provides services to veterans from Sen. Boggs, so it was great to see it for himself.

Treat also spoke of how impressed her felt with the layout of the hospital's Emergency Department and how impressed he felt about the Opioid decrease in the McAlester area.

Stegall said he's toured veterans centers in other parts of the state, but this is the first time he's seen one embedded in a non-VA hospital.

He said he was impressed with how well everything was working and how the staff seemed to have a heart for veterans.

"They seem to be hitting on all eight cylinders," said Stegall.

Because of COVID-19, the lawmakers did not get to tour all of the hospital, with the tour mostly restricted to the ED and Veterans Clinic.

"When we talk about medical access in rural Oklahoma, we need places like McAlester to fill that gap," Treat said.

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com.

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