From left to right, Mike Rokusik, VA Emergency Department (ED) Health Administration Chief (white shirt); Joye Onorato, VA ED Nurse Manager (holding framed letter); Larry Dandridge, AUSA Coastal S.C. Chapter Vice President for Veteran Affairs (coat and tie), and Doctor Wade Manaker, ED Physician pose after the Coastal S.C. Chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) awarded its Outstanding Service Award to the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center (RHJVAMC) Emergency Department Team on Thursday, December 2021. Photo courtesy of the RHJVAMC Public Affairs Office.

Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center Emergency Department Team recognized


The Coastal S.C. Chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) awarded its Outstanding Service Award to the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center (RHJVAMC) Emergency Department Team on Thursday, Dec. 16. 

U.S. Army Lt. Colonel Ret. Larry Dandridge, who is the AUSA Chapter’s VP for Veteran and Retiree Affairs, presented the award at a ceremony in the Emergency Department (ED). The award consists of an engraved plaque and framed letter of appreciation and commendation. 

The inscription on the ED’s Award Plaque reads: 

“Coastal S.C. Chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) recognizes the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center Emergency Department (ED) Team for providing outstanding customer service and quality of care to Veterans and their families in 2021 (and before). Constantly improving, always kind, ever compassionate, empathetic, contagiously enthusiastic, expert preventers of infection, and focused on patients and their families best describes the Emergency Department Team. It is no wonder the ED gets so many glowing reviews and survey results from their customers. Each of the leaders and employees in the ED are true champions of excellent service! 

“For four years straight, the RHJVAHCS Emergency Department (ED) Team has ranked in the top quarter of all Emergency Departments for providing excellent service and patient experience. During many of the past 48 months, the ED has been recognized as being in the top 10 percent of VA Medical Center EDs for quality of care and customer satisfaction. 

“What is unique about the RHJVA Medical Center’s ED Team is they have made improvements in every domain of patient and family care experience over the past four years. This accomplishment has required excellent leadership and employee support across all disciplines. The ED Team has clearly demonstrated an unparalleled level of teamwork between nurses, physicians, other clinicians, and administrative staff. They have worked tirelessly for the past two years, under the most stressful conditions of a deadly pandemic, and through it all the ED Team has prevented infections and provided the highest level of emergency services, not just in the VA but also among the medical industry. 

Emergency Department Chief, Dr. Lancer Scott; Assistant Department Chief, Dr. Wade Manaker; Nurse Manager Joye Onorato; Health Administrator Supervisor Mike Rokusek; and the entire ED team were commended for their outstanding services, kindness, compassion, empathy, contagious enthusiasm, and dedication to continuous improvement. 

“The Coastal S.C. AUSA Chapter presents an award to a special team or individual who works at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center each quarter. Previous winners of this coveted award include: Hannah P. McCoy, Patient Advocate Supervisor; June Robins, Program Analyst; Meredith Miller, Social Worker; the Ward 4B South Team; Davina Dietrich, the ward 4B South Nurse Supervisor; ICU Nurse Lydia Bautista; and Mr. Fred Lesinski, Chief of Customer Experience. 

“We veterans in the Lowcountry of S.C. and the coastal region of Northeast, Ga., are fortunate to have a five-star-rated VA Medical Center and its Community Based Outpatient Centers (COBCs) serving us and our families, caregivers, and survivors. The Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center and Health Care System has been rated in the top 10 percent of all public and private hospitals in the USA for quality of care, patient satisfaction, infection prevention, and many other performance measures for over ten years.” 

Seek immediate care 

During a medical emergency, a veteran should immediately seek care at the nearest hospital, whether it is a VA facility or not. Veterans do not need to check with the VA before calling an ambulance or going to a community hospital emergency room. 

However, for VA to coordinate and potentially pay for emergency care, the VA must be notified within 72 hours of the veteran’s hospital visit, at 844-724-7842. For more information, visit https:// www.va.gov/COMMUNITYCARE/programs/veterans/ emergency_care.asp. 

Larry Dandridge is a retired Lt. Col. In the U.S. Army. He is a Vietnam War era wounded warrior, a combat and 100 percent disabled veteran, a former Infantryman, former Warrant Officer and pilot. Dandridge is also a past Veterans Service Officer, and a current volunteer Patient Adviser, CEO Advisory Council Member, and Patient and Family Advisory Committee Member at the RHJ VA Medical Center, as well as a published author and free-lance writer. He can be reached at LDandridge@earthlink.net. 

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