NEW YORK, NY -- President Clinton on Veterans Day (11/11) will inaugurate bedside telephone service at four Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Centers, including the New York VA, by making a special telephone call from the Oval Office to veterans under care at the hospitals.
The bedside telephone service was contributed by "PT Phone Home," a national volunteer organization committed to providing hospitalized veterans at the nation's 172 VA medical facilities with easy access to telephones.
Taking the President's call at the New York VA will be Staten Islander John Byrnes, 70, who was highly decorated for his service in World WarI II, and is a patient at the hospital.
Joining the president and Byrnes on the conference call will be patients at VA Medical Centers in Northampton, Mass., Roseburg, Ore., and Chillicothe, Ohio.
Union and management volunteers from Regional Bell Operating companies such as NYNEX, the Communications Workers of America, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and the Telephone Pioneers of America, along with volunteers from local veterans organizations, provided the expertise and support needed for the PT Phone Home effort. In addition, these organizations and others contributed most of the necessary telephone equipment.
Before the PT Phone Home project began ("PT" is the medical abbreviation for patient), patients at VA medical centers had to share a handful of pay phones. Many patients, particularly those who were bedridden, had difficulty reaching the pay phones to call their friends and families. The PT Phone Home project also allows nurses to spend more time providing health care, instead of helping patients reach telephones.
PT Phone Home is the vision of Frank X. Dosio, a NYNEX employee and member of the CWA, Local 1120, in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. In the late 1980s, Dosio discovered the need for bedside telephone service when he visited a friend who was hospitalized at a VA Medical Center in New York State. "I couldn't believe the trouble hospitalized veterans had in making phone calls," said Dosio. "A nurse wheeled around a heavy, portable pay phone, and if the nurse was busy, not even that was available. I was determined to change the situation."
Dosio asked for help from fellow CWA members, members of the IBEW, NYNEX managers, the Pioneers, VA employees, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, the Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association, and others.
With support from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, CWA technicians and NYNEX managers worked for hundreds of hours as volunteers to install telephone lines and equipment at the New York VA. In all, more than 550 hospital bedsides are wired for telephone service at the Manhattan facility. It is the 116th VA location nationwide to be wired for telephone service at patients' bedsides. NYNEX employees represented by the IBEW have been involved in PT Phone Home projects in New England.
John Donnellan, director of the New York VA Medical Center, praised the CWA, the IBEW, and NYNEX for the extraordinary public service effort they made to benefit America's heroes. "Many of these volunteers are veterans themselves. Their hard work and dedication showed a lot of heart," said Donnellan.
"The PT Phone Home effort is a perfect example of the cooperation between the CWA, the IBEW and NYNEX, and how that relationship is paying off for all of our customers across the Northeast," said Donald Reed, NYNEX president and group executive.
Over the next year and a half, PT Phone Home plans to complete telephone installations at all 172 VA medical facilities in the United States, working with regional telephone company employees and a variety of corporations and non-profit organizations.
In April 1993, PT Phone Home received the President's Volunteer Action Award, the most prestigious presidential award given for volunteer community service. PT Phone Home also has received the Hospital Award for Volunteer Excellence from the American Hospital Association and the VFW's Special Project Award. Last month, the organization received the 1995 Secretary's Award, the highest civilian honor of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
In the New York metropolitan area, VA hospitals in Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Northport (LI) have also been wired for bedside telephone service.
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