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More potential delays: Top VA health official says goal to re-open 24 hour service by April now at risk

VIDEO available here.

Murray: “As the daughter of a World War II veteran, this is unacceptable to me. It is a very serious problem for veterans in the area, and we need to get it back to full-time operation”

Spokane VA emergency room cut 24 hour service in December; Veterans forced to go elsewhere for care after hours

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, a senior member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, pressed U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald and Dr. Carolyn M. Clancy, MD, the Interim Under Secretary for Health, on when the Department plans to reopen the emergency room at the Spokane VA Medical Center for 24 hour service. In December, staffing shortages forced the VA to dramatically cut the emergency room operating hours for veterans in Eastern Washington. Murray also questioned Secretary McDonald and Under Secretary Clancy on whether VA is looking at every option to provide emergency care for Eastern Washington veterans, including using temporary providers or bringing in doctors from other facilities, to get this done sooner.

Watch video of the exchange here.

A full transcript of the exchange is below.

Senator Murray: I want to talk to you about a home state issue, the Spokane emergency room. They have seen a dramatic cut back in operations simply because of staffing problems.

I have to tell you, as the daughter of a World War II veteran, this is unacceptable to me. It is a very serious problem for veterans in that area, and we’ve got to get it back to full-time operation.

I wanted to ask you today: when will the emergency room at the Spokane VA start operating 24-hours a day again?

Under Secretary Clancy:Senator we have had significant recruiting problems. We had originally hoped to open it to 24/7 in April, and it’s now looking like that’s going to be pushed back a few months, until I met with some colleagues from the American Legion just a couple of days ago, at their meeting this week, and they have actually been out speaking to some of the other hospitals in town who may be able to help us out.

The other area where we need help, I think recruiting emergency physicians, is a legislative change that would allow us to accommodate what many people who go into emergency medicine want, which is greater flexibility for hours, than the current federal HR policies.

Senator Murray: Are you looking at every option? Because we’ve heard recruiting forever –temporary providers, bringing in doctors from other facilities, absolutely everything? Because this is a critical need in that community.

Under Secretary Clancy: Yes, we are looking at every option.

Senator Murray:k I want to follow up with you on that and let me know when, and how, and when we’re going to see that open again.