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American Homefront

Haley VA Director: Patient Tower A Priority

Bobbie O'Brien
WUSF Public Media
Joe Battle, a civil engineer who has a 32 year career with the VA, is excited about taking over at Haley with its Polytrauma Center, Spinal Cord Injury and research units.

A new medical director is at the helm of Tampa’s James A. Haley VA Medical Center. Joe D. Battle has only been on the job seven weeks but already has a long “to do” list.

“We’re trying to get a new bed tower here and authorized for construction,” said Battle, an engineer who started working for the VA more than 32 years.

The plan is to provide individual rooms for veterans now housed in hospital wards that are almost 50 years old.

“My personal belief is every veteran deserves a private room to be in when they come to the hospital, and unfortunately at Haley we don't have that in all cases,” Battle said.

He has other priorities such as consolidating VA services back onto the main campus at 13000 Bruce B. Downs Blvd., Tampa.

“Right now we have a lot of facilities within a 5 mile radius of this campus,” Battle said. “I was joking the other day, it felt like every corner I drove by had a VA clinic of some kind on it.”

The Haley service area of Hillsborough, Hernando, Pasco and Polk counties includes more than 90,000 veterans currently being treated by the VA.

Battle, who said he loves technology and innovation, also is working the phone system so callers get a response in less than 30 seconds. Right now, he said, it takes on average about a minute. Providing public Wi-Fi to patients and visitors is another priority.

When it comes to concerns over wait times for medical appointments, Battle said right now 96 percent of veterans get an appointment within 30 days or less. But he’s aiming to make that 99 percent.

Battle hosted a news media roundtable Monday as part of his outreach to get acquainted with the community. He’s already met with several members of congress, visited MacDill Air Force Base, held a mental health summit with local leaders and a town hall with veterans and met with officials from Tampa and Hillsborough County.

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