Women veterans are the fastest growing group of veterans within the VA population and make up more than 15 percent of active duty and 18 percent reserve military personnel. It is estimated that female veterans utilizing VA medical services has doubled since the year 2000 and will double again over the next 10 years. Statistics also show that 57 percent of OEF/OIF/OND women veterans have used VA health care and 62 percent of those female veterans still receive VA medical services.
These and other statistics lead the VA in St. Louis to reassess how women veterans receive health care and what services are provided. Today, the VA St. Louis Health Care System (VASLHCS) is a leader in providing a comprehensive, holistic approach to treating women veterans.
Women Veterans Program Manager, Dr. Eve Holzemer, recognized the need for St. Louis to redesign and improve the level of care provided to female veterans and created a three-phase approach to expand the mission, vision, and values for serving female veterans.
The first completed phase consisted of hiring an OB/GYN physician and developing the capacity to provide GYN procedures such as colposcopy, endometrial biopsy, vulvar skin biopsy, and intrauterine device (IUD) insertion and removal. The hospital at John Cochran is renovating the mammography area, which will include state-of-the-art care with private dressing area, consultation and procedure rooms. This is expected to be completed in early 2015. Processes have been streamlined to allow for same day mammography, ultrasound and biopsy if needed. Additionally, a renovated, private lactation room inside the hospital will be available for employees, patients or visitors and is expected to be completed by May 2013.
In the past, women veterans being seen at the VA’s Community Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOC) needing well-woman examinations were referred to the Women’s Clinic, located on Grand and Olive in St. Louis. The providers at these clinics are re-energizing their skills so that comprehensive care and well-woman examinations for female veterans will be available in their local areas. Belleville, Ill and North St. Louis County CBOC practitioners have completed this phase, and it is anticipated that the St. Charles and Washington, MO clinics will be completed by the end of fiscal year 2013. This will enable the veteran to be treated close to home, and avoid the long drive into St. Louis.
The second phase will include increasing and improving complex services like electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP), hysteroscopy and prenatal services. The third phase will increase complex medical and surgical procedures to include hysterectomy, tubal ligation, oncology and radiation oncology that are specific to female needs. These phases will be developed over the next several years.
“The ability to concentrate exclusively on the needs of female veterans allows me to focus treatment and VA resources where they’re needed most and most successful,” explained Holzemer. “I really believe the VA in St. Louis is providing much improved and more comprehensive care and services to our women vets. It’s a great feeling to be a part of this transformation and to witness the positive impact it’s having on the women we treat.”
For more information on VA health care for women veterans, please visit our website, stop by the VA Women’s Clinic at 3615 Olive St., or call (314) 652-4100 ext. 56540.
Upcoming Women’s Program Outreach Events
March 16, 2013 – POW WOW to honor of American Indians at Washington University
April 4, 2013 – Open Door event for homeless or in need veterans at the SLU Simon Recreation Center
April 20, 2013 – VA St. Louis Health Care System “Stand Down for Homeless Veterans”
May 11, 2013 – VA St. Louis Health Care System “Stand Up for Women Veterans”
June 15, 2013 – Veterans Race for the Cure
June 22, 2013 - Women's Summit, part of Welcome Home