Advocates join forces in hopes to save Chillicothe VA Medical Center from closure
Adrienne D’Souza, like many children of military families, moved around a lot. When her father was stationed at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio became home. Wright-Patt was her father's last stop. When he retired from the military, he moved the family to Chillicothe to be near other relatives in the area. D’Souza made Chillicothe her home and since the late 70s has been active in trying to make the community better.
“I am the president of the Ross County NAACP and I also work at the Chillicothe and Ross County Public Library. I've been here for over 31 years. I serve on the United Way Ross County board. I serve on the South-Central Ohio American Red Cross board and the Carver Community Center board," said D’Souza.
D’Souza has joined a chorus of community members who are fighting to get the Chillicothe VA removed from a list that recommends it be closed. She has a special connection to the hospital where her mother worked as a nurse for many years and where her father spent many years due to illness.
"We started seeing some things going on with my dad's health; we noticed that he was moving slower, that his hands had started to have the little tremors and his health just started declining. I think my brothers and I were in denial, but my mother, being a nurse, she knew what was going on with my dad," she said.
D’Souza's father, Senior Master Sgt. Robert Robinson Sr. was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. D’Souza doesn't believe her father could have received the same quality of care he received from the Chillicothe VA anywhere else.
“He received the best treatment, and I tell you, that staff, they treated my father with so much love and respect and integrity. Even in his final stages, when my father could no longer really eat, they took the time to puree his food,“ said D’Souza.
D'Souza said in meetings she has attended, other vets like her father have said the same thing. They have built a relationship with staff from the Chillicothe VA and many are afraid of what could happen if the facility closes.
“I hear the same thing over and over and over again. The vets get really good treatment here at the Chillicothe VA. They keep on saying they don't want to travel. They are afraid to go to the Dayton VA. They don't like the neighborhood it's in,” D'Souza said.
D'souza said if they lost the medical facility, their community would likely never be the same.
“One lady said her husband is in the final stages of the disease he has, and she said if this VA ends up closing she doesn't know what she will do. It's stories like that that are just so heart-wrenching,“ said D’souza.
As head of the Chillicothe NAACP, D'Souza will be meeting with leaders of the civil rights organization this week to consider what action they can take to save the facility.