VA official announces regional upgrades

Deputy secretary visits Portland VA on national tour

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

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

Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan D. 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 this 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 open additional eye lanes and increase eye procedure capacity to meet demand. Once installed in early fiscal year 2015, this will increase total capacity by approximately 500 slots a month.

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

The Portland VA also has added two new full-time permanent providers, with eleven additional providers expected on board by Oct. 1. The Portland center has received 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 the VA’s budget be made 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 in late 2014 and open in the summer of 2016.