Elizabethtown Community Hospital chief promotes plan to help rural veterans’ clinics with docs

Elizabethtown Community Hospital Chief Executive Officer Rodney Boula has an idea that can help veterans, the Veteran’s Association and the rural hospitals that have the ability to serve both.

Boula recently sent proposal to local congressmen recommending that federally designated Critical Access Hospitals and Federal Qualified Health Centers be allowed to manage the veterans’ care in rural areas.

Boula’s proposal comes at a time when VA officials are looking to find a new doctor to staff their clinic in Westport and satellite office in Saranac Lake.

“Their plea is for a doctor with Agent Orange and Post-Traumatic War Syndrome, and I do not know where you are going to get a doctor in the North Country with that kind of experience,” Boula said. “That is something that should be used with the telemedicine facilities like they have at the Saranac Lake site.”

Boula said that the, “basic premise,” of his proposal was to allow the VA to utilize the doctors and facilities that are already in place in rural areas.

“We found that 80 to 85 percent of the patients that were being seen at the VA Clinic when it was at the hospital were also seeing our doctors for their primary care,” Boula said. “The infrastructure is here, why not make it work? I am looking at it as a way to help the vet and do what is best for the vet.”

Boula said that, by using federally credentialed hospitals and health centers, veterans would also be able to stay closer to home and not have to make the long trip to Albany as often, even less where the use of telemedicine is implemented.

“If you have needs that our people can’t provide, then you connect with Albany or even Walter Reed to get those people with that expertise,” Boula said. “There will still be services that we can’t provide, and then they would have to go to Albany. What I am proposing is an option for them to consider in order to help the veterans in our area.”

Boula said that he would be open to being the test case for a potential use of his proposal by the VA because he felt the idea could benefit all parties involved.

“To me, it’s a win-win situation,” he said.

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