Monthly Report from the Director - Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center
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Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center


Monthly Report from the Director

Charleston VAMC Hospital

December 2017

Medical Center Director Scott Isaacks

Scott R. Isaacks, FACHE
Medical Center Director

   Upcoming Events

USS Ralph Johnson Commissioning Ticket Request Deadline 
Dec. 31
To get ticket info.

PFC Ralph H. Johnson’s birthday
Jan. 11

Commissioning of the USS Ralph Johnson
March 24

For previous Director's Messages, click here.  

2017 has truly been a banner year for the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center thanks to the outstanding efforts of our employees, volunteers and community partners who all share in the mission of caring for our nation’s heroes. For the third year in a row, we were recognized with a 5 Star rating through VA’s SAIL performance review designating us as being in the top 10 percent of all VA facilities in terms of the quality of the care and services that we provide.  This year, not only were we recognized as a 5-star facility, but we have now improved to the 6th ranked facility out of 160 VA hospitals nationally.  Also, our continued efforts to increase both the number and complexity of the services that we offer our patients has resulted in our facility being re-designated as a level 1A complexity facility. 

This new designation not only places us amongst the most clinically complex of all VA facilities but, more importantly, lets our veterans know that they can walk through our doors and get as full a range of services as you will see offered in any hospital, both inside and outside VA.   Finally, having continued this year as the second fastest growing VA in the U.S. for percentage of unique Veteran patient growth, we also maintained our access track record providing 98 percent of appointments within 30 days.  At the same time, we were recognized as one of the top VA’s in the country for employee satisfaction through our All Employee Survey scores – an important milestone as we continue to improve every day in our efforts to be the employer of choice recruiting and retaining the very best medical professionals to care for our Veterans.

There are many other achievements I could share with you such as the growth of our research program that now has more than 95 research investigators working on close to 300 projects with a total research budget of $28.8 million, or the fact that in FY17 we continued to help Veterans find alternative therapies to manage their pain as demonstrated through our opioid prescribing rate that is consistently 4 – 5 percent below the national average, ranking us fourth in the nation in VA’s latest assessment for opioid management. But what I really want to share with you is that we have an incredible team doing incredible work as proven by these facts and more.  And because of the work done here at your VA, I hear over and over from our Veterans they are confident they are receiving the very best care possible.  It is hearing how our Charleston VA – your VA – has positively impacted our veterans’ lives that brings me the most joy!  

Ralph H. Johnson VAMC Fisher House

Ribbon delegation cuts ribbon and Charleston Fisher House grand opening.
Charleston Fisher House co-founders Trux and Durbin Emerson, VA and Fisher House leadership and major donors cut the ceremonial ribbon during the Ralph H. Johnson VAMC Fisher House grand opening ceremony on December 7, 2017.

One of our challenges though, as a regional medical and referral center, has been having families close to their Veteran while they are in our care. Thanks to the Fisher House Foundation, Fisher House Charleston and the work of Trux and Durbin Emerson and countless other community leaders over the past five years that challenge has now been met.

On December 7, we had the pleasure of opening the Ralph H. Johnson VAMC Fisher House at 150 Wentworth St., just blocks away from our VA. Seeing our community and benefactors from across the country come together to provide this beautiful home-away-from-home for Veteran families has truly been an amazing experience.  This 16-suite facility rivals Charleston’s finest hotels and provides complementary accommodations for the families that will stay there beginning in early January so they can focus on their Veteran and his or her recovery.  I want to personally thank all who have worked so diligently to make our Fisher House a reality, and I invite you to catch a glimpse of the ceremony and facility by checking out our Fisher House photo album.

USS Ralph Johnson Commissioning and Tickets

On March 24, 2018, on Charleston’s Columbus Street Pier, the Navy and our country will honor our namesake’s sacrifice and service with the commissioning of its newest destroyer, USS Ralph Johnson.  A ship’s commissioning is a wonderful, time-honored ceremony steeped in Naval tradition that signifies the ship becoming a member of the Fleet.  It is truly a patriotic, family-friendly event not many get to witness.  For those interested in attending the ceremony, you must get tickets issued by the Navy.  These tickets are free to the general public and the process to receive a ticket is easy.  BUT, you must register before the end of the year.  Here’s how it is done:

  1. Go to the Navy League Charleston website.
  2. Select “Go to the Ship’s Page” on the picture of the ship.
  3. Once you get to the ship’s page, click on the tab under the picture labeled “Invitations.”
  4. At the bottom of the “Invitations” page fill in the required fields and click submit.

After the first of the year the Navy will mail an invitation to those who have registered.  The invitation will tell the recipient how to RSVP.  Once the Navy receives the RSVP, they will send you your set of tickets via the mail.


I also encourage us all to remember the sacrifices made by not only our Veterans, but by the families that love and care for them. There are sure to be many stories of compassion, comfort, hope, and some of heartbreak that will be told within the walls of our new Fisher House and across all of our communities as 2017 draws to a close and 2018 begins.  Each of us has an opportunity to make a difference in one another’s lives every day just by being there.  Simply listening is one of the most remarkable gifts any of us can give, and it is a gift that can often literally save a life.  VA’s #BeThere campaign offers a host of educational tools and resources to help us all learn about and prevent Veteran suicide. Please take a moment to visit the site and learn what you can do to help a Veteran or anyone in crisis.  Together we can make a real difference just by being there and intervening when needed.

Finally, I wish you all the happiest of holidays filled with family, friends and all those you hold dear. As you enjoy the season, remember our Veterans and their families in your thoughts and prayers and take a moment to thank them for all they have done to protect our nation, our home.   

Director's signature

Scott R. Isaacks