VA Secretary Robert Wilkie visited Veterans and employees at the Panama City Beach Community-based VA Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) Oct. 28 to tour the facility and recognize staff for superior service during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Secretary Wilkie bumps elbows with Dr. JoAnn Holoka, primary care physician.

Wilkie, accompanied by Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System (GCVHCS) Director Bryan Matthews, first observed the facility’s COVID-19 screening process and spoke with employees about their experiences this past year.

“I’m here for one reason and that is to thank the men and women of the Panama City Beach VA for everything they’ve done,” said Wilkie. “Not only for our Veterans, but also for the state of Florida during this crisis.”

Escorted by Panama City Beach VA CBOC Chief Medical Officer Binita Amin, M.D., Wilkie was also shown patient exam rooms, support group rooms and the laboratory.

Pictured above with Wilkie is Jennifer Abenden, chief medical technologist.

Share with Navy and Air Force

With the Panama City Beach VA CBOC located near Naval Support Activity Panama City and Tyndall Air Force Base, Amin highlighted VA’s sharing agreements with the two organizations. She provided details about the facility’s primary care, laboratory, mental health, women’s health and patient advocate services.

“The Panama City Beach CBOC is such a wonderful facility and we have a great relationship with the city and the U.S. Armed Forces commands nearby,” said Amin. “This recognition of our staff’s efforts – providing the best medical care and support to our nation’s heroes – during these difficult times is something we all appreciate.”

During his visit, Wilkie presented his personal challenge coin – a longtime military tradition recognizing individual achievement – to Outpatient Scheduling Section chief Darrell Roderique, clinical pharmacy specialist Mark Kennedy, physician William Hardin, housekeeping aid William Johnson and registered nurse Toni Henderson.

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie (right) is escorted by (from left) chief medical officer Dr. Binita Amin, GCVHCS assistant director for outpatient operations Alicia Miller, GCVHCS director Bryan Matthews and GCVHCS chief of staff Dr. Brian Foresman.

Crediting the dedication of employees like these and the Panama City Beach VA CBOC’s close ties with the community, Wilkie spoke about the facility’s unprecedented trust scores and capability to leverage technology to ensure Veteran’s health care needs are met.

Highest patient satisfaction in VA

“They have the highest patient satisfaction rate of any VA facility. It sits at 100 percent,” Wilkie said. “There’s no other VA that comes close. In addition, they’ve been able to swiftly adjust to what our Veterans have needed this year. They’ve increased telehealth appointments to 2,000% over normal, significantly expanding VA’s footprint here. They’ve successfully adapted to the situation and are slowly, but safely, returning to normal.”

Matthews added that the Panama City Beach VA CBOC’s continued success stems from employees’ positive attitude and on-going, positive interaction with the community.

“Employees here to get to know Veterans on a personal level. That unquestionably contributes to the outstanding health care VA provides and the high satisfaction scores we have.”

The Panama City Beach VA CBOC, along with the Biloxi VA Medical Center, and the Mobile, Pensacola, and Eglin VA Outpatient Clinics, are part of the GCVHCS. Headquartered in Biloxi, Mississippi, the health care system provides a variety of medical and mental health services to more than 70,000 Veterans along the Gulf Coast in Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida.

Bruce Cummins is a public affairs specialist for the Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System, Biloxi, Mississippi.

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Published on Nov. 3, 2020

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