Published Date Written by Barbara TetreaultAyotte made her plea for better health care for North Country veterans to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki at a Senate Budget Committee hearing in Washington, D.C. She is also pushing for a part-time health clinic for veterans in Colebrook.
"Many of our veterans are traveling long distances to get the care that they deserve and across state lines and it is very difficult for many of them...our veterans in our North Country deserve the same kinds of access [as] other more populated areas of the state," Ayotte said.
In a meeting at AVH on April 3, Ayotte asked AVH CEO Russell Keene and Hospitalist Dr. John McDowell if the hospital would be interested in a contract to provide in-patient care to veterans in the northern section of the state. The AVH officials said the hospital was very interested and had the capacity to enter into such an agreement. Since then, Keene has had further discussions with Michael Scala of Ayotte's Berlin office. AVH spokesman James Patry said Keene is very enthusiastic and hopeful about the prospect and looking forward to seeing the parameters.
Ayotte noted Concord Hospital has such a contract with the VA to provide acute inpatient services.
Concord Hospital CEO Mike Green said the contract between his hospital and the VA has been in place over six years. He said the VA put the contract out for bids last fall and Concord hopes to be the successful bidder again.
He said it is a fairly complex arrangement. Under the contract, veterans have to be referred to Concord Hospital by the VA Medical Center in Manchester. On average, Green said there are four to six veterans a day being treated as in-patients at Concord Hospital under the contract. There is a VA liaison on-site at the hospital.
He said the hospital considers it a privilege and an honor to take care of the veterans and they are given top priority for hospital beds. Green said the hospital has set up a data system to allow the VA and Concord Hospital to transfer patient medical information and results.
Ayotte and U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen have introduced legislation to require the VA to open a full-service VA hospital in New Hampshire. The state is one of the few without a VA hospital. The nearest VA hospital for Coos County veterans is in White River Junction, VT.
Until a VA hospital is built in the state, Ayotte asked Secretary Shinseki to consider expanded contracts with local hospitals like AVH.
Ayotte and Shaheen have also urged Shinseki to establish a community-based outpatient clinic in Colebrook. The state's entire Congressional delegation, including Ayotte, Shaheen, and U.S. Reps, Annie Kuster and Carol Shea-Potter earlier this month sent a letter to Secretary Shinseki urging him to locate a part-time access clinic with a proposed telehealth site in Colebrook. There currently are VA outpatient clinics in Conway and Littleton.