Dayton VA Medical Center Director Jill Dietrich told the Dayton Daily News that she’s focused on growing new programs, adding jobs and “continuing to provide excellent care” in 2019.
Dietrich, who manages 2,300 employees and a $435 million budget, has oversight of the sprawling hospital campus in Dayton and four clinics in in Richmond, Indiana, and Springfield, Middletown and Lima. She started in the position in April.
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“Last year, we had some budgetary issues. We had to lose employees by attrition to come to an affordable baseline of employees,” she said. “Now, that we’ve modified our organizational charts to something that’s sustainable to the organization … we definitely have positions to fill, and trying to get those individuals on board is one of the main priorities.”
Dietrich is the first woman leader of the 150-year-old institution and is one of the youngest directors in charge of a VA center nationwide. “It’s been a whirlwind since I got here,” she said. “I will tell you I feel fully acclimated at this point. The Dayton VA is doing so many wonderful things.”
Dietrich touted both medical and social projects that have launched this year.
• The $6.5 million Fisher House — a place where families of VA patients can stay for free — opened on the Dayton VA campus. An estimated 500 families a year will stay at the Fisher House while their family members are treated for injuries and illnesses. The new Fisher House is the third in the Dayton region, joining two others at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
• The Dayton VA launched its food pantry initiative, where hungry veterans have access to healthy food. Veterans may receive food assistance once every 30 days through the program.A study shows that younger veterans — those who had served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001 — reported higher levels of food insecurity.
• The medical center received an advanced certification for hip and knee replacement from Joint Commission this month, Dietrich said. “We are the only one to have that advanced certification in the VA and the only medical facility in the Miami Valley region with that certification,” she said.
Dietrich said she’s working on educating both military and civilian community members about the services offered at the VA, combatting the negative perception impacting the hospital in recent years. In October, the Dayton Daily News reported the Dayton VA received the worst performance rating in Ohio by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“The executive leadership in Dayton is taking the results of this report seriously,” said Bradley Wilson, a program analyst in charge of quality management at the Dayton VA medical center, in October. Wilson said the rating doesn’t reflect changes already underway.
Dietrich said when the community has been supportive of the VA, and that’s where perception changes begin.
“It doesn’t happen until there’s an individual engagement with a veteran,” she said. “I do not believe the national VA narrative is going away any time soon.”