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Selected Editorials from the Editor

Suns & Shields Christian Inspirational Writings by Rachelle Hamlin

Selected editorials from Dr. Katherine Albrecht, Ed. D.


The Roberts Trap is Sprung

By:  Bill Dunne
One of the most overlooked aspects of the year just ended is the vindication of Chief Justice John Roberts -- a vindication that showed up as the national catastrophe known as ObamaCare got rolling.  Roberts may have also doomed Hillary Clinton's chance to live in the White House again... click here to read whole editorial


Sanitary Conditions at Togus VA Hospital Called Into Question

See the News Video with more photos



By:  David Deschesne

Fort Fairfield Journal, September 27, 2017


AUGUSTA, Maine—While the Togus VA hospital in Augusta has some of the best medical care veterans can hope to receive, it has, according to one veteran, allowed its sanitary conditions in the rooming quarters to decline drastically over the years.

   Richard Pelletier Jr., American Legion District 17 Service Officer for Northern Aroostook spent some time at Togus in March of this year and began tracking the building conditions there over the following months.  When he arrived for an overnight stay in March, he was appalled at the living conditions.   “I went to the building and I walked in and I went upstairs.  There was another veteran that was staying up there on the second floor and there was I think a couple other veterans downstairs.  I started looking around and I started seeing dirt everywhere.  The floors were filthy.  We had a two inch mattress, maybe a three inch mattress.  The bathroom; if I had a dog I wouldn't have washed it in there,” said Pelletier.  “I was going to go take a shower.  When I went to the shower I looked at it, I couldn't believe it, that shower hadn't been cleaned maybe for a year, maybe even more.  It's all old sinks, old tubs that should have been removed a long time ago.  Bathrooms should be sanitary because you've got to remember on that floor - first floor or second floor - you've got about six or seven veterans at one time using one bathroom.  They have to be disinfected every day so you don't catch what somebody else has.  They weren't doing that and they were leaving the place, just letting it go. 

   “The place looked like trash.  I thought they had closed that second floor because of the way it was dirty.  I thought they're playing a joke on me or something.”

   Concerned about the sanitary conditions, Pelletier, a former U.S. Marine, began taking pictures and video with his cell phone in order to catalog the situation.  “When I was taking pictures I start seeing more and more stuff.  The building, the paint was peeling and how dirty the floors.” 

   Pelletier said he talked to several service organizations, such as the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and the American Legion about the conditions at Togus. “And I've talked to the people that work there and they're telling me that it's filth, the place is filth.  They told me the director has been cutting [the budget] the past eight years or so that they've been cutting, cutting and cutting.  So they only have a skeleton crew for cleanup, for cleaning the building, which is unsatisfactory.”

    Upon completion of his first visit to Togus in March, Pelletier had decided to lay low and not make a formal complaint.  But when he returned the following month to find conditions hadn't changed, he began to be a little more proactive.  “The second time, the next month I went over there, nothing had changed.  They still put me upstairs.  So now I really got upset. And I'd go right to the director's office.  They don't like you to do that - go to director's office.  So I met with this guy and he said we don't have the money to pay for additional, we don't have, we just don't have that money.”

   According to a statement from VA Maine Healthcare System Center Director, Ryan Lilly, the pictures of the floor Pelletier stayed on were from a floor that was unoccupied.  “It is important to note the majority of photos were taken from the unoccupied second floor of the building.  That floor has been closed for many months due to the condition of the rooms and there are no plans to reopen it.  The space has since been locked off and appropriate signage placed.”

   This is the same floor of Building 3 that Pelletier claims to have been allowed a room on in two consecutive visits last Spring.  Lilly says that “due to an oversight, the door leading to the second floor was left unlocked, which allowed for patients to walk up to that portion of the building.  Since the space was unoccupied, it was not maintained to usual standards.”

   “With nearly 1 million square feet of buildings, the Togus VA Medical Center includes a vast array of space to maintain,” Lilly told the Fort Fairfield Journal.  “Since most buildings are aged (average age over 60 years), priority is given to areas where patient care is delivered.”

   Pelletier was still not impressed.  “I'm talking about the whole hospital, the VA grounds.  Everything's falling apart.  You look at the building and it looks like soot because they don't wash the buildings.  They've left it alone.  The same dirt that was there the first time in March, 2017 was still there six months later,” said Pelletier.  “The whole hospital and the grounds, it's unbelievable, the place looks like trash.”

   As for the medical care at that facility, Pelletier gives them excellent marks.  “These people in Togus and even our clinics in Caribou and other places.  It's unbelievable the staff, how they treat us.  They treat us with care, with kid gloves really.  The medical care, you can't beat it.  I'm serious, it's excellent care.  The only problem - and even the employees complain - is that the place is dirty, number one; second of all is that the place is falling apart.

   Pelletier sent the pictures he took, along with letters explaining the situation to Maine's Congressmen and Senators.  He also sent media packages to the area news media outlets.  All were met with a resounding silence.  The Fort Fairfield Journal is the only news outlet willing to research and publish his story.  Pelletier also recounts how one local reporter abruptly brushed him off.  “And I said, can I stop by, let me stop by and I can show you the pictures.  She said I wouldn't feel good about you stopping by.  I said, Why?  This is a story.  She refused.  She said I wouldn't, I don't want you to come here.”

   Bruce Poliquin, Congressman for Maine's Second District was sent, via U.S. Certified Mail, several copies of photos and a request for comment on the building conditions by this writer.  But, as of the time of publication, no response has been received.

   “You'd think they would act upon that.  You got the facts, you got me writing the letter.  I am a legitimate service officer of District 17 Northern Aroostook.  I'm not a fly by night, I am an officer and I'm here to help the veterans making sure they have the best care, making sure they have plenty of doctors,” said an impassioned Pelletier.  “Veterans die every day and the ones that come home, they come to that?  I'm sorry as a service officer of American Legion, District 17 I can't allow that.  I swore to an oath to the Legion that I would take care of the veterans, their spouses and their children and I'm keeping that promise, that oath that I've taken.”

  To watch the news video of this report online, with pictures of areas cited, click here.







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