VA leader lays out care improvements

Local veterans will see new optometric gear, caregivers and money

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

Published:

 

Upgrades of health care for veterans at Vancouver's VA campus were announced Friday by a top administrator.

Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan Gibson visited the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center, which includes a Vancouver site. Gibson is on a tour of VA facilities across the country as part of an effort, he said Friday morning, to "restore the public's trust" in the agency.

In a news release, Gibson highlighted national as well as regional initiatives.

In June, the Portland Medical Center realigned space and bought additional equipment for Vancouver, Hillsboro, and Portland to meet the demand for eye care. Once installed in early fiscal year 2015, this will increase total capacity by approximately 500 appointments a month.

The medical center is adding Saturday schedules to manage the 300-veteran caseload in Vancouver.

The Portland VA also has two new full-time permanent providers, with 11 more expected on board by Oct. 1, and commitments from 15 additional primary care providers.

And, as part of a nationwide expansion of health-care resources, the Veterans Health Administration is ensuring that $7.9 million from within VA's budget is available to the Portland Medical Center to accelerate access to care. The Portland VA has tabbed more than 6,000 veterans for referral to community providers for needed care.

In June, the VA said it was eliminating the 14-day scheduling goal from employee performance plans. This will eliminate incentives to falsify scheduling.

In a separate announcement, the Portland VA said in July that a new primary care clinic is slated for the Vancouver campus. At 20,000 square feet, it will be twice as big as the current primary care clinic. Construction is expected to begin late this year and the clinic should open in summer 2016.