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VA health care report discussed a clinic that doesn't exist

New Hampshire Union Leader

March 16. 2018 11:29PM

MANCHESTER — A market-based report that assessed the health care needs of New Hampshire and Vermont veterans listed a community clinic that did not exist.

The report chronicles all the Veterans Affairs sites in the two states and included a community-based outpatient clinic in St. Johnsbury, Vt., that the report said served nearly 7,000 veterans in 2017.

This community does not now or ever has had such a clinic, according to U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H.

She questioned a top Department of Veterans Affairs official about the glaring mistake during a subcommittee hearing Thursday.

The Jan. 5 draft report was used as a supporting document for the so-called Vision 2025 Task Force draft report that concluded the Manchester VA Medical Center should not become a full-service hospital.

“This whole methodology is called into question because the market assessment considers this facility that doesn’t exist and talks about expanding it,” Kuster said during the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations.

“I am concerned because obviously that calls into question the whole study.”

Dr. Carolyn Clancy, the executive in charge of the Veterans Health Administration, said she had been unaware of the mistake until Kuster brought it up.

“We will fix that error and also have our people take a look at the entire assessment,” Clancy testified in response to Kuster’s questioning.

The report had been the result of collaboration between health care experts from this region and other parts of the VA system.

“If the conclusions are wrong, we need to fix those right away,” Clancy said.

Attempts to reach VA officials for comment Friday night were not successful.

Kuster, the lead Democrat on the House subcommittee, said the report does a disservice to the needs of the Manchester VA.

“The VA must immediately rectify this mistake and ensure that all information provided to the 2025 Task Force is accurate,” Kuster said in a statement Friday.

“Our veterans deserve the best care possible and errors like this undermine confidence in the ability of the VA to provide that care.”

Late last month, the task force draft report said construction of a full-service VA hospital was not the best way to deliver in-patient hospital services to New Hampshire veterans.

“There is a high probability that by the time a new in-patient facility was constructed, there would no longer be enough demand to sustain its use,” read a draft of the VA website.

“Additionally, the focus group and survey data collected by the task force shows that the number-one priority for veterans is to receive care close to home, regardless of who is providing it.”

For decades, the Manchester VA Medical Center has offered a wide array of specialty practices, an emergency clinic, ambulatory surgery and a skilled nursing home. But it does not provide inpatient hospital care.

The VA Vision 2025 Task Force was scheduled to meet twice this past week to work on finalizing this report.

Those final findings will be presented to the VA’s Special Medical Advisory Group in Orlando, Fla., on April 11.

Any changes would have to be approved by VA Secretary David Shulkin.

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