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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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VA doctor arrested for alleged sex crimes

A Nine Miles Falls physician accused of drugging and raping a 13-year-old boy early Saturday is in the Stevens County Jail facing charges of child rape and possession of child pornography. Dr. Craig Morgenstern, who is an emergency room doctor at the Spokane VA Medical Center, turned himself in to the Stevens County Sheriff’s Office late Monday afternoon after learning that a warrant had been issued for his arrest on two rape charges. He was released Tuesday on $100,000 bond. Officers arrested him a second time Wednesday night on the child pornography charge.

Spokane doctor charged with child rape

Dr. Craig Morgenstern, an emergency room doctor at the Spokane VA Medical Center, was arrested Monday and charged in Stevens County with child rape.

Local veterans air complaints about VA procedures

Several veterans who attended a town hall meeting Friday evening at Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center praised the care they had been given, but in the next breath spoke of problems with policies and procedures. Nearly 50 people attended the outdoor meeting under a tent in a grassy area behind the hospital, but many left early as the evening grew colder.

Audit shows ‘smoke and mirrors’ of vets’ care

When Sharon Helman – former director of the Spokane VA hospital – arrived at the Phoenix VA hospital in 2012, her priority was clear: Reduce wait times and eliminate the scheduling manipulation that obscured them. Helman’s boss at the time told the Arizona Republic: “My first instruction to her was, ‘We’ve got to deal with the wait-time issue.’ ”

Man sentenced to 10 years for throwing mortal punch

A raucous party two years ago in north Spokane County has earned a 21-year-old man a decade in prison after he pleaded guilty this week to manslaughter for throwing a mortal punch at a Vietnam veteran. Treven Lewis was 18 when investigators say he struck Frank Motta, 65, who had arrived at the request of a teenage neighbor to help disperse the party. Motta, a retired principal and patient’s advocate at the Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center, received head wounds in the altercation. He died at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center a few days later and prosecutors filed murder charges against the teen.

Shawn Vestal: Spokane veterans’ hospital struggles with specialty care

Doctor shortages in the optometry services have been the primary reason for longer-than-usual wait lists at Spokane’s Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center this summer, and none of the waits has involved urgent care, a top hospital official said Tuesday. The hospital is acting quickly to move veterans off that list, aided in part by the hiring of an optometrist and in part by a new initiative that allows more patients to be seen by community providers if they can’t be scheduled quickly at the VA, said Nancy Benton, associate director of patient care.

Shawn Vestal: Spokane VA hospital director owes us answers

Why does the Spokane VA hospital have one of the longest waiting lists in the nation? Why does it have one of the country’s longest-of-the-longest waiting lists – new patients who can’t be scheduled within 120 days?

Shawn Vestal: Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center shortens wait times

As the VA has begun closely auditing wait times across the nation, some concrete figures about access to care at Spokane’s Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center have emerged. The Spokane hospital has one of the longest Electronic Waiting Lists in the country – indicating new patients who could not be scheduled for appointments within 90 days. It also has more veterans who’ve been on the EWL for more than 120 days than almost any other hospital in the country. But the audits – conducted every two weeks – also show that the Spokane hospital is trimming its EWL and moving more patients into treatment quickly over the past several weeks. The hospital says it is making “tremendous progress” on shrinking the EWL.

Shawn Vestal: Army veteran survived battle, but not its aftermath

Pictures cover the refrigerator in the kitchen at Todd and Renee Watson’s North Side home. In one of them, their son, Cody, smiles out at a camera in 2009. “This is before he deployed,” Todd Watson said. “He looks like he’s 14 years old. And then you look at him here” – Watson points to another photo of Cody, bearded and looking hard, and his voice breaks – “he looks 15 years older.”

Audit: More than 57,000 await initial VA visits

More than 57,000 veterans have been waiting for up to three months for medical appointments, the Veterans Affairs Department said in a wide-ranging audit released Monday. An additional 64,000 who enrolled for VA health care over the past decade have never been seen by a doctor, according to the audit.

Shawn Vestal: Veterans frustrated with wait times at Spokane VA hospital

Rex Miller’s problems getting in to see a pulmonologist have left him frustrated. Miller is a retired Air Force master sergeant with a 70 percent disability. Part of that is associated with pulmonary disease, and he’s been receiving treatment for his breathing problems and other symptoms for several years. When the effectiveness of his prescription medications began to wane in February – making it harder for him to walk and bringing the return of asthma symptoms – he went to see a primary care doctor at the Spokane VA hospital, who recommended that he see a pulmonologist, he says. VA standards call for a 30-day wait in such instances.

Reports mixed at Spokane VA facility

As the VA scandal grows outward from Phoenix, ripples keep appearing in Spokane. The agency’s inspector general released an initial report that said it was reviewing 42 VA facilities nationwide. Though it did not specify that Spokane was among them, an IG team did visit the hospital here recently.

Appointment maneuvers at VA were prohibited in 2010 memo

WASHINGTON – Fake appointments, unofficial logs kept on the sly and appointments made without telling the patient are among tricks used to disguise delays in seeing and treating veterans at Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics. They’re not a new phenomenon. VA officials, veteran service organizations and members of Congress have known about them for years.

Shawn Vestal: Phoenix-type appointment practices used at Spokane VA, retiree says

A former clerk at Spokane’s VA hospital says that he and his fellow clerks routinely logged in appointment times in a way that obscured the long waits veterans had for treatment – similar to allegations that have arisen at the Phoenix VA hospital. The allegations made by John Bedwell, a Navy veteran of the Vietnam War, concerned some of the time that Sharon Helman was the director of what is now the Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center in Spokane. Helman has been placed on leave as head of the Phoenix hospital while officials investigate claims by a longtime doctor that her administration kept false records about veterans’ wait times, and that as many as 40 veterans may have died while awaiting treatment.

Spokane Veterans Affairs hospital brings budget concerns to Sen. Patty Murray

WASHINGTON – Staff shortages and the worry of possible budget cuts prompted local managers at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Spokane to ignore the chain of command and take their concerns straight to U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, who put pointed questions to senior officials during a Wednesday hearing. The problems of treating veterans returning from 13 years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq are vexing VA hospitals and staff, as suicides, violent outbursts and other war-related medical problems mount.

VA Medical Center to be renamed

Spokane’s Veterans Affairs Medical Center will be renamed for a pair of local heroes, both houses of Congress decided Thursday. The northwest Spokane facility will become the Mann-Grandstaff Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in honor of Pfc. Joe E. Mann and Platoon Sgt. Bruce Grandstaff, soldiers who won the Medal of Honor in two different wars.

Proposal provides VA heroic name

Spokane’s Veterans Affairs Medical Center would get a new name under proposals before Congress. Actually, two new names: Pfc. Joe E. Mann and Platoon Sgt. Bruce Grandstaff. The medical center in northwest Spokane would be renamed for two regional recipients of the Medal of Honor under legislation backed by the state’s congressional delegation.