Priority given at Tigard's Oregon Outpatient Surgery Center
By the time you read this, Evan Johnson will be resting at home, recuperating after undergoing surgery on his ankle.
It may not seem like much, but the surgery wasnt something Johnson thought hed be getting anytime soon.
Johnson, 32, is a veteran who fought in Iraq. He has been waiting for months for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to schedule his surgery after he developed a lesion in his ankle.
I am on the list to get surgery done at the VA, but they dont know when that will be, it could be a couple of months, said Johnson, an infantryman in the U.S. Army, who served in Afghanistan in 2004. Thats all they can do for me. This has really kept me from doing anything, really.
But with no end in sight to the waitlist, Johnson took a gamble at the Oregon Outpatient Surgery Center in Bridgeport.
Earlier this month, the clinic launched a free program to help veterans receive timely surgeries to help reduce the backlog of cases at the Portland VA Medical Center.
Oregon Outpatient Surgery Centers Save Our Veterans program offers free surgeries to local veterans with medical problems.
I strongly believe that every veteran deserves the highest quality healthcare. My own father was a World War II vet, said Dr. Richard Edelson, an orthopedic surgeon at the clinic. The privileges and success we enjoy today are due to the prior sacrifices of others. We need to pay that debt forward.
In addition to free surgical procedures, veterans will receive pre- and post-treatment free of charge, including medical services and supplies.
Oregon Outpatient is a pretty cutting-edge clinic, Johnson said. Ill be seeing their physical therapists and getting some of the best care. They are treating me really well.
Johnson was scheduled to be released from the clinic on Wednesday afternoon, after The Times press deadline.
The program doesnt officially begin until July 4, but Bela Friedman, a spokeswoman for the surgery center said its team was able to schedule Johnsons surgery early because of his condition.
They are being so good to me, its a little weird, Johnson said before his surgery.
Johnson has been dealing with the pain as best he could, but with two young children at home a 2-year-old and a 3-month-old Johnson isnt able to stay off his feet for long.
What these people are doing is great, he said. And doing it this way will cut my recovery time in half. The VA has said I would be out for about a year, but because they are doing the surgery orthoscopically, my recovery time is about six months.
Edelson said the program is opening to any veteran in need of surgery.
Our priorities will be vets who were injured as a consequence of military duty, and especially those on waiting lists, but others will be considered, Edelson said.
Oregon Outpatients program comes after Veterans Affairs medical centers in Portland and Roseburg were ranked among the worst in the nation for wait times, with more than 6,600 veterans unable to see a physician within 90 days. Questions about faulty data were also raised.
I am appalled by todays report that falsified records forced more than 6,600 Oregon veterans to endure unconscionable waiting times to receive the care theyve earned, said U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden in a statement. Those who cooked the books at VA facilities or lied to Congress as it attempted to conduct oversight should be fired immediately and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Evan Johnson said he has had a good relationship with the VA in the past.
The waiting list is just backed up, the Operation Enduring Freedom veteran said. I have had other surgeries through the VA in the past. They are just taking care of so many people, its crazy.
Dr. Richard Edelson, an orthopedic surgeon at the Oregon Outpatient Surgery Center agreed.
The vast majority of health professionals at the Department of Veteran Affairs are hardworking individuals, he said. Our surgery center, like many others, has the capacity and expertise to help relieve their burden. After all, we ask a lot of those who serve. In return, we should serve a lot to those we ask.
It is a great program, and I hope that the word gets out, Johnson said. Everything about it is a really good situation for me,
Oregon Outpatient Surgery Center is located at 7300 S.W. Childs Road in Tigard.