Culture changes at VA hospitals as more female vets seek health care

Posted at 7:26 PM, Sep 21, 2012

Built in 1938, at the beginning of World War II, the Hampton VA hospital was designed for an all-male military.

Things have changed over the course of 70 years, and now women make up almost 15% of those serving on active duty.

Believe it or not...Hampton Roads has the fastest growing population of female veterans, double the national average.

Now, they have a new place to go for their health care needs.

“We are in a part of the VA Medical Center where it’s just for us.”

Hattie Cannady is a former Army helicopter refueler, and one of the many female veterans who came out for the ribbon cutting of the new Hampton VA Women's Clinic.

She is looking forward to less running around the hospital grounds, trying to fit in different appointments with different doctors.

“At times, it has been a day venture, because you want to have everything done,” said Cannady. “Now, it’s a whole different realm for how we are going to be cared for.”

Because now, both her physical and mental health needs will all be met under one roof.

“From head to toe, meaning inside and outside, because a lot of things that go on inside can reflect on our health,” said Cannady.

“We make sure we engage psychological needs as well as physical needs of our patients,” said Dr. Terri Lockhart, the Director of Primary Care at the Hampton VA Hospital.

Dr. Lockhart says every woman who comes into the new medical clinic will be screened for signs and symptoms of mental illness.

The growing need is staggering; one out of every five female vets from Iraq or Afghanistan are diagnosed with PTSD.

One in five female VA patients also say they were sexually assaulted or sexually harassed during their time in service.

Those women will get care for it all in the new clinic.

“My message to the women veterans is that we are here for you. We really appreciate your service, and we want to give back to you on every level possible,” said Dr. Lockhart.

The new facility will start seeing patients on October 1st.