As more and more women serve in the military, more become veterans…and that means more are showing up at veterans hospitals. Since the mid 1990s, the number of female veterans seeking care from the Iowa City Veterans Affairs Medical Center has quadrupled, according to hospital spokesman Kurt Sickels. Today (Monday) a new women’s clinic opens for the military clients. There will be some primary-care needs answered, but the most exciting aspect of the new clinic, he says, is providing a holistic environment for women veterans to come and have all their healthcare needs “put together in one package.” Sickels says there weren’t many women vets before, sine few served in the military and women certainly weren’t seen near the field of battle…but that’s all changed in recent years. They’re in many different areas in the military, some right on the front line…in fact, about 20-percent of those forces are women, so their healthcare needs to be taken care of. Sickels says women were never refused care — there just weren’t very many so the system didn’t have a special area just for their needs. There were very few, though in Vietnam and Desert Storm there were certainly women. As times changed, he says, so have our Army and all armed forces. The state’s first clinic catering to female veterans opens today, with primary and preventive care, and women’s specialists like gynecologists. It will offer vocational rehabilitation, drug treatment, counseling and other services. While services have been offered for women at the VA Hospital for some time, they’ve been “segmented” and Sickel says they’er being brought together for the first time and they hope to make it a “center of excellence,” and will listen to the women vets to learn where they need to go. The clinic will be headed by a doctor who served patients for years at the Family Health Clinic that used to be located at the site of the new women veteran’s clinic, in Coralville. There will also be a doctor who’s a national expert on military sexual trauma. A report by the Associate Press found 20 to 25-percent of women soldiers return home reporting they were sexually harassed or assaulted.
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