- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:

Muskogee Phoenix. Nov. 3, 2017.

City officials and residents must be patient with any delays in the next step in developing a 15.4-acre tract slated for urban renewal.

City officials expect to know by mid-December whether a real estate development company will move forward with plans to develop land on Shawnee Bypass.

This land has been targeted for development for years.

But remember, the land was basically a field for years before the Urban Renewal Authority began the process.

There is potential. Look across Sixth Street and you will see T.J. Maxx, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Ulta to name a few tenants in Three Rivers Plaza.

It takes time to build a solid tax base.

And it should be built the correct way.

There is no need to rush into plans that could prove to be less than right at the end of the day.

Developers want to take their time to ensure the project is right.

Residents must be patient with that process.

A lot of progress has been made on Shawnee Bypass over the last decade.

Now is not the time to be frustrated.

___

The Oklahoman. Nov. 7, 2017.

Wade Vlosich was appointed director of the Oklahoma City Veterans Affairs Health Care System in May 2016. The fact he’s still on the job today, nearly 18 months later, is reason to believe the maligned hospital is on the right path.

Before Vlosich’s arrival, the hospital had been led by five directors in less than three years. That revolving door produced “an inattentive and apathetic organizational culture” where problems persisted once they arose, the VA’s inspector general noted in a recent report.

Those problems were considerable, as USA Today reported in December 2015. The newspaper cited it as one of the most underperforming hospitals in the VA health system, and noted that it regularly received just one out of five stars in rankings that use the VA’s own statistics.

A few months after Vlosich’s appointment, the VA’s deputy director visited and said that while there was considerable work to be done, the hospital was making improvements across the board. “I think the facility is heading in the right direction,” he said.

The IG report, requested by Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, following the USA Today story, shows that yes, much work remains.

The report noted two especially bad mistakes. In one case, a patient developed sepsis after a colon procedure, but it wasn’t documented or passed along to other hospital staff. The patient died when brought back into surgery. In the other case, doctors performed a non-emergency surgery on a patient without the patient’s consent. The surgery could have led to adverse effects long term, inspectors said.

Other concerns included in the report included:

- The hospital didn’t have processes in place to make sure patients and their families received proper disclosure in cases where there were surprise adverse outcomes.

- Systemic failures resulted in some patients not being seen. The IG looked at 1,288 canceled appointments and found about one-third weren’t rescheduled within a month, as required. Twenty-two patients died or were hospitalized after their appointment was canceled.

- Patient wait times in the emergency room were shorter than the VA’s target, but in 2015 and 2016, the percentage of patients who left the ER without being seen exceeded the VA target.

Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, said Oklahoma veterans “deserve better care and more options for care,” but that improvements have been made under Vlosich - something IG report pointed out as well. Lankford also noted that hospital leaders have already completed several of the IG’s 24 recommendations.

Rep. Steve Russell, R-Oklahoma City, an Army veteran, said the report seems to show that the Oklahoma City VA hospital won’t ever get fixed. We might share that pessimism if Vlosich hadn’t already begun making positive changes, or if the director had bristled at the IG’s report.

Instead, he welcomed it, saying it provides guidance for additional improvement. “I’m actually glad this report has been published,” he said.

That sort of attitude is refreshing, and it’s needed if the VA hospital in Oklahoma City is to consistently provide the quality of care that Oklahoma’s veterans have earned. We wish Vlosich well in his continued pursuit of that goal.

___

Tulsa World. Nov. 7, 2017.

The people who gathered in the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, were there for solace, for worship and fellowship. Their Sunday ended in horror and death when a gunman invaded the church and killed at least 26 parishioners and wounded 20 more.

Authorities said the shooter was Devin Patrick Kelley, 26. Shortly after services had begun, around 11 a.m., Kelley began his rampage. Dressed in black and armed with an assault rifle, a pistol and wearing body armor, he shot his way into the church. The dead range from children to the elderly. One victim was the 14-year-old daughter of the pastor, who was out of town at the time.

We know little about Kelley, nothing that would explain such a despicable act. While in the Air Force, he was charged with assault on his spouse and on their child. He was convicted, sentenced to a year in confinement and a reduction in rank. After serving his sentence, he was given a bad conduct discharge. He later was charged with misdemeanor cruelty to animals.

Why Kelley chose the small, rural church about 30 miles east of San Antonio remains unclear. One report said that his former in-laws attended the church, but were not present Sunday. The nation will hang by the details of Kelley’s life because we desperately want to understand a crime that, in our hearts, we know is inexplicable. Here’s what it will come down to: Kelley was evil and determined to cause misery. There is no more satisfying explanation, and our time is better spent reaching out to those left in pain by his acts.

A man who saw Kelley leave the church behaved heroically and might have prevented even more carnage. The man, who was armed, confronted Kelly and exchanged gunfire. Kelly had left his AR-15 inside the church but still had a pistol. Authorities believe Kelly might have been wounded in that shootout. Kelley fled in his vehicle, chased by the first man and another. They followed Kelley until he crashed his car. Kelley was found dead in his vehicle, possibly the victim of suicide.

Sutherland Springs is a town of about 400 people. Almost 50 of that total now lie dead or injured at the hands of a maniac with a gun. It’s a town where everybody knows everybody. We know their hearts are breaking, as are ours.


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