Veterans make their case for VA clinic

Piche said the Albany VA only had authorization for one clinic in the area, and two separate full-time clinics would not fit in to their budget.

"We would love to have one of these clinics in every community," she said, "but we know that's not practical."

"I want to assure you that the board of directors is fully supportive of keeping the clinic here in Elizabethtown," said ECH board president Ulrich Hoffman, a Korean War veteran.

According to ECH administrator Rod Boula, the hospital lost $59,000 last year because its contract with Stratton VAMC did not provide enough reimbursement to meet its costs of operating the satellite clinic.

Negotiations for a contract that meets the hospital's costs fell through, and ECH has been operating the clinic without a renewed contract since November.

"All we want to do with the clinic is break even," said Hoffman. "I'm sure this can be worked out."

Boula said the hospital would be submitting two responses to the RFP; one that mirrors its current operations, and another that would offer services through its Wilmington satellite clinic part of the week.

Scozzafava proposed the possibility of allocating county funds to make up the $59,000 difference if it would allow the clinic to stay at its current location.

"There's still the issue of whether Elizabethtown Hospital can provide a full-time physician," Piche responded.

Since its inception, the Elizabethtown clinic has been operating with one part-time physician, Dr. Herbert Savel, who oversees a staff of physicians assistants at the hospital.

According to Piche, the VAMC in Albany has made it a goal to offer one standard of care at all of its 11 satellite clinics by requiring a full-time, VA accredited physician to be among the staff provided by the facility.

Though they've had over a year to recruit a full-time physician, ECH has failed to do so, she said. In addition, the clinic has been short-staffed by one physicians assistant as well.

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