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Salt Lake VA gets grant to refashion ER room for women

Published January 31, 2013 10:30 am

Veterans • Hospital strives to make female patients feel more comfortable.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A new federal grant will allow the VA hospital in Salt Lake City to transform one of its emergency rooms into one that is more welcoming for women veterans.

The George E. Wahlen Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center announced Wednesday that it will get $8,259, one of 33 grants worth $2 million shared by hospitals around the country.

The grants are part of the Department of Veterans Affairs' push to improve services to women veterans. It's the largest-ever number of one-year grants for that purpose, according to a VA news release.

Anne Beck, the emergency department nurse manager, applied for the grant.

"We hope to create an area that's more calm and away from the rest of the hubbub," Beck said.

The hospital has 14 emergency room beds, six of them in a large room with beds separated by curtains and the others in private rooms.

The redecorated and refurnished room will be used for all patients, but perhaps most welcomed by women who need privacy, bring children or need gynecological examinations, Beck said.

The grant will allow purchase of an obstetrical-gynecological gurney that will be more comfortable than the usual examination tables, she said.

Gina Painter, director of the VA women's clinic, said veterans' first experience at the VA is often in the emergency room.

It can be particularly traumatic for a female veteran who has suffered from military sexual assault to wait or receive care while surrounded by men, she said.

"The ER can be a frustrating, scary place in general, but when you're a minority in the system, it can be even worse," said Painter.

The room will be repainted and decorated to suit women's tastes, and will have a recliner for spouses and children, she said.

Women today comprise 15 percent of the active-duty military and nearly 18 percent of the National Guard and Reserve forces. The VA estimates that by 2020, women veterans will comprise 10 percent of the veteran population.

kmoulton@sltrib.com