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VA seeks solution for veteran's clinic

ELIZABETHTOWN - A decision to re-evaluate the operation of a Veteran's Administration clinic at Elizabethtown Community Hospital is now taking a different turn.

The department of Veteran's Affairs had submitted a request for proposals in April seeking to relocate the clinic in the Saranac Lake or Lake Placid region. The deadline for proposals was May 15 with the goal of awarding a contract by Aug. 1.

Many local veterans spoke out against the consideration to relocate the Elizabethtown VA clinic, which was one of the first ever established in the United States.

Peter Potter, spokesman for the Stratton VA Medical Center, said that administrators there are still considering some of the proposals they've received for operating a contracted clinic in the region, but are now leaning toward a "staff model" approach.

In a staff model, Potter explained, Stratton VA would directly hire medical professionals to man the clinic, which would be located in a rented space. It differs from the currently-utilized contract model where Stratton reimburses a clinic or hospital that provides their own VA-accredited staff.

Out of the 11 clinics currently operated by Stratton, Potter said four currently utilize a staff model as opposed to a contract model.

Potter said using the staff model would allow the VA to have more control over ensuring the clinic was staffed and run according to VA standards, with standardized appointment times for each patient.

Staffing has been a concern in Elizabethtown, where ECH has been unable to hire a full-time physician or physician's assistant to staff the VA clinic there. A traveling doctor from Stratton is currently filling the position as a temporary measure.

By hiring staff directly, however, Stratton would be able to draw from a nationwide pool of VA-accredited physicians, bypassing the difficulty of local hospitals to attract a doctor.

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