B Y S I M O N G O N Z A L E Z
P H O T O G R A P H Y B Y A L L I S O N P O T T E R
Wilmington’s VA clinic provides medical care for the Cape Fear’s veterans
Those Who Served
Dr. Richard Trotta is well aware of the issues surrounding veterans’ health care. Trotta is the
chief medical officer of the Wilmington Health Care Center, the Veterans Affairs clinic on the
grounds of Wilmington International Airport. He’s heard the horror stories about veterans
dying while waiting for appointments at other VA centers. He’s experienced the ongoing prob-lems
with water quality at his own facility.
“We earned some of our black eyes,” he says.
He acknowledges the need to do a better job caring for the men and women who served
their country in the military.
“We could do what we do a lot better,” he says. “That’s just … it’s the bottom line. We’ve
got to get better, quicker, faster at doing what we’re doing.”
Trotta also understands the inherent difficulties of working within a system plagued by
bureaucracy and sometimes stymied by partisan politics.
“It is what it is, it’s the VA, it’s government-run medicine,” he says. “We live with the laws
that are made, and we have to go by them.”
But as Trotta sits in his office at the Wilmington clinic, surrounded by military memorabilia,
he also speaks with pride about the compassionate and professional care his staff provides for
the Cape Fear region’s veterans.
“I’ll put these guys up against anybody in town,” he says. “The bottom line is yes, I’m proud
of this facility and the people who work here. We provide excellent medical care to a very large
group of very deserving veterans. I still personally get very frustrated because this thing could
be better, we could be better. And I fight every day to try and get there. I know there are things
I can do better, but I’m very proud of where we’ve come.”
The Wilmington facility is a 100,000-square-foot “superclinic” with an onsite pharmacy —
about the size of a super Walmart, says Fred Roche, administrator for the center that offers pri-mary
care and a host of other services, including mental health, women’s health, dermatology,
urology, podiatry, dental, eye and audiology clinics, and more.
It does not have surgical services, an emergency department or an urgent-care clinic. But for
most healthcare needs, veterans on the coast can receive care locally rather than having to travel
to the closest full-service VA medical center in Fayetteville.
“That’s why we were put here,” Roche says. “We’re not going to be able to provide every-thing
that everybody needs, but a good portion of what they need they can get
here. The attempt was made to minimize the amount of time they
were spending on the road going to Fayetteville.”
Dr. Richard Trotta sees a patient at the Wilmington
Health Care Center in October.
WBM november 2017