Dorn VA patients claim critical lack of surgeons - - Columbia, South Carolina |

Dorn VA patients claim critical lack of surgeons

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Gary Quirk's surgery was scheduled for Friday at the Dorn VA hospital, but he wasn't on the operating table.

"This has just gotten to be one of the longest most, I don't know what you call it, most punishing experiences I've ever had," said Quirk.

The pain in his abdomen is constant.

"Everyday I do get a little weaker, more pain," said Quirk.  

The delay is from a lack of general surgeons. The hospital finally secured help from USC's School of Medicine and Fort Jackson, but they're also using community surgeons to get veterans seen.

"We've actually feed-out all work into the community or has been seen by our DOD partners in a timely fashion just to make sure there have been no delays at all," said Dorn VA Associate Director Dr. David Omura.

That's not what Quirk has experienced.

"I have a lot of promises, but no action," said Quirk.

Last year, Dorn did nearly a million outpatient procedures. They serve two-thirds of the state and say the recent shortage has affected a small portion of veterans. Replacing surgeons could take 6 months.

"Certainly for a general surgeon they're not as plentiful in the community, so it takes more time to hire these individuals, but that's the exact reason why we bring in contracts as well as we fee out services," said Omura.

Still, patients like Quirk feel let down.

"It's hard for me to do this, because the VA is my friend, and I feel dedicated to them, but I know there are other veterans out there because I've sat in the waiting rooms," said Quirk.

Quirk has never received notification from the hospital about the delay or the fix. However, he remains hopeful he'll get the procedure he needs.

"Maybe the VA will open their eyes and look at us a little different instead of just a number or a maybe even a headache, because I'm sure I've been a headache to them trying to get some help," said Quirk.

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