N.H. veterans hospital scales back clinic hours

Associated Press
Published: 7/18/2019 1:18:51 PM

The urgent care facility at New Hampshire’s only veterans medical center is reducing its hours, forcing veterans to go elsewhere to get treatment in the evenings and overnight.

The Manchester clinic now offers around-the-clock care but after Aug. 30, it will only accept walk-ins from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily. If an eligible veteran needs urgent care outside those hours, center director Alfred Montoya said there are nine other clinics around the state they can go to.

That list is expected to grow.

This move comes as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs presses for the use of urgent care clinics nationwide as part of the Mission Act that went into effect last month. Critics have expressed concerns that offering more private care could undermine veterans services.

But Montoya said the move is welcome, and part of an effort to offer even more health care services. The urgent care facility will relocate to a stand-alone building connected to the center. Mental health services will also be offered there.

“This is not privatization,” he said. “This is expansion of services, modernization of service in a data-driven, patient safety focus that really brings it all together.”

The change in hours has largely been welcomed by veterans groups, some of whom have advocated for a full-service hospital and complained about care in the past.

Montoya was brought in as part of a leadership shake-up after the Boston Globe in 2017 reported whistleblower complaints about substandard care and treatment at the facility. Complaints included a fly-infested operating room, surgical instruments that weren’t always sterilized and patients whose conditions were ignored or weren’t treated properly.

“This is a good thing,” said Gregory d’Arbonne, president of the New Hampshire chapter of the Association of the United States Army. “We are going to depend on medical services in the community so this is a way of saving time for the veteran. As long as the VA is paying for it, there should be no burden on the veteran.”

David J. Kenney, chairman of the New Hampshire Veterans Advisory Committee who co-chaired a task force looking at the future of veterans affairs, said the move was a good use of resources, given that only four veterans typically use urgent care on any given night.




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