Rick Salgueiro turned the director of the Veterans Affairs Western Colorado Well being Care System in late Could, months into the COVID-19 pandemic.
Previous to taking the job, he had by no means been to the state of Colorado.
“My spouse and I are constructing a house locally and are actually comfortable to place roots down right here,” he mentioned. “Our common dwelling time in an space has been about 1.5 years, so we plan to be anchored right here for a while.”
Salgueiro retired after 20 years within the Military in 2008, and he mentioned it “appeared like a pure development for me to proceed public service in VA.”
As the brand new chief of Veterans Affairs locally, Salgueiro is aware of one problem might be to have interaction with all of the veterans locally.
“It’s a really massive geographic space with 4 amenities in extraordinarily rural communities. It’s a relentless mission to make sure we have interaction them and supply steering and assist to realize the advantages that they labored so arduous to get,” he mentioned.
The disconnection between veterans and their advantages is one he has recognized firsthand.
“One time I occurred upon a Koren Battle veteran and we have been speaking, and he mentioned he tried to get well being care and he was advised he wasn’t eligible as a result of he didn’t serve lengthy sufficient within the conflict. I assumed that didn’t sound correct,” Salgueiro mentioned. “We ended up getting him enrolled, fitted him for listening to aids, and set him up with entry to a lot of packages.”
Too typically Salgueiro has seen veterans not get the advantages they earned as a result of they didn’t know or have been misinformed.
“That was the case for this one fellow,” he mentioned.
After shedding a detailed pal in Iraq, Salgueiro has remained obsessed with Veteran Affairs ever since.
“I take into consideration what his sacrifice meant to this nation day by day. I do know what troopers and their households must undergo and what sailors and Marines must undergo,” he mentioned.
Salgueiro desires to see a lower in veteran suicides locally and is aware of that it received’t be a simple battle to combat. Six veteran suicides have been reported to the VA Western Colorado Well being Care System this 12 months in comparison with two final 12 months.
“Veteran suicide is a nationwide problem,” Salgueiro mentioned. “When one veteran dies of suicide, it’s an absolute tragedy.”
Salgueiro mentioned there’s a full-time suicide prevention coordinator for the VA, and suicide will proceed to be a difficulty he seems to be to handle.
“The suicides we have a look at, oftentimes the veteran isn’t related to our system and never enrolled in psychological well being assist,” he mentioned. “A part of our job is to succeed in out and join with veterans so we will get our arms round them. It’s vital for us to attempt to attain these veterans that aren’t getting their care throughout the well being care system.”
After serving within the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Syracuse, New York, Salgueiro is worked up to proceed his work on the Western Slope.
“I’m accountable for every little thing Grand Junction VA is chargeable for,” Salgueiro mentioned. “It is a well being care supply system chargeable for 20,000 veterans, protecting an space of 47,000 sq. miles. Now we have a $125 million annual finances, and I’m accountable for all of it.”
As VA Western Colorado Well being Care System director, Salgueiro is chargeable for 18 counties.
Salgueiro has been locally since Could 27 and has been impressed with how Grand Junction treats its veterans.
Amongst his priorities as VA director might be to enhance veteran satisfaction with the hospital locally.
“Our newest rating was 90.4 out of 100. The nationwide common is 89,” he mentioned. “My purpose is to make it the perfect in veteran high quality of care within the subsequent 12 months. Our aim is to be the perfect of the West.”
Earlier than COVID-19, the VA Western Colorado Well being Care System labored with about 950 sufferers a day in areas like major care, psychological well being, prescribed drugs, preventive care and extra.
“There are a variety of providers that we offer: foundational, major and psychological well being, and specialty providers.,” he mentioned.
Throughout COVID-19, these appointments shifted with roughly 50% of face-to-face appointments transformed to telehealth.
“We’ve been caring for veterans, however doing it otherwise in several methods,” he mentioned.
Veterans Affairs cell apps that present veterans the power to refill prescriptions on-line, in addition to see medical and lab outcomes, have additionally change into extra common these previous few months.
“That’s been very useful,” he mentioned.
Whereas telehealth has elevated through the pandemic, the variety of face-face-appointments have began to extend as well being restrictions have eased.
“As much as 40% of our visits are being performed nose to nose,” Salgueiro mentioned.