Feedback: VA Clinic Moving From Carthage To Watertown, Concerns Arise Over Care


Carthage Area Hospital announced that effective February 15, 2010, it will no longer be the contracting provider for the Veterans Administration Clinic in Jefferson County.

Employees were informed Tuesday that CAH's bid to retain the contract was not accepted.

"There were tears, there was sadness, there was anger, frustration, every area of emotions that you could think of. It was a shock," said CAH Administrator Walter Becker.

Becker said the VA staff told hospital employees that relocating the clinic to Watertown would be more convenient for patients who could not travel to Carthage, calling the city a "population hub."

CAH originally took over the contracted service in 2003 from Mercy Healthcare, also located in Watertown.

Becker noted that "when CAH took over the contract, the patient quality scores were the lowest of the 30 providers within Upstate New York.  Today, we have been averaging in the top five centers."

"I have gentlemen coming down from Massena. I've got two of them coming up from Cortland. They pass two other VA facilities to get here and now that they find out that they have to go a whole other provider, establish all new care - it's hard for them," said Christopher Grudowski a family nurse practitioner at the clinic.

Valor Healthcare of Washington, D.C., is taking over the VA clinic and plans to move it to the C.A.N.I. facility on outer Washington Street in Watertown.

Molly Cate, a spokesperson for Valor, said the company has 17 clinics across the nation and normally has a staff of 20 to 30 people at each clinic.

She said Valor is proud to be coming to Watertown and is looking forward to working with veterans in the region.

Here's the problem: CAH's actual contract expires November 30, 2008.

Carthage officials have received no word as to what will happen to veterans' care between November 30 and February 15.

"Who's going to take care of the patients December 1? Who's going to take care of that diabetic that has a problem the day after Christmas," asked Becker.

Gordon Sklar, a spokesperson for the VA in Syracuse, tells 7 News the Veterans Administration is talking about the contractual gap and that no decisions have been made.

It's entirely possible Carthage will continue providing services through February.

Meanwhile, the hospital plans to use the soon-to-be-vacant space as a primary care center and plans to announce other projects within the next few weeks.

There is also hope that current employees can be maintained as the VA Clinic leaves the Carthage area.

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Carthage Area Hospital News Release:

Carthage Area Hospital is announcing that effective February 15, 2010, it will no longer serve as the contracting provider for the Veterans Administration Clinic within Jefferson County.

The service will be contracted through a national provider organization and be relocated to Watertown, NY.  The VA staff advised the hospital that Watertown is the "population hub" of the service area and it would appear to be more convenient for the patients not to travel to Carthage.

The hospital originally took over the contracted service in November 2003 from its previous contractor of Mercy Healthcare in Watertown.  Under the direction of Carthage Area Hospital, the patient volume doubled from an average of annual patient visits to slightly over 15,000 contacts.  The center was relocated to the CAH Professional Building in Carthage.

According to Walter S. Becker, Hospital Administrator; "When CAH took over the contract, the patient quality scores was the lowest of the 30 providers within Upstate New York.  Today, we have been averaging in the top five centers."

"Under the proposed contractual agreement the provider will receive a newly implemented capitation payment methodology based upon the number of patients assigned to the center.  Through such a methodology, the contracting provider assumes an enormous financial risk. 

Carthage Area Hospital currently has no capitation contracts; we were concerned assuming the additional risk for the Veterans Administration site.  Under capitation agreements, the provider of service assumes most of the financial risk for care.  With the pending national and state reimbursment changes, it is questionable for a small hospital to place themselves in situations of long tenured contracts and in which one assumes the burden of unnecessary financial risk."

"During the past six years our providers and staff have worked diligently to enhance timely primary health services for our veterans.  Our staff has become friends with most of these patients and we have the highest respect for everyone.  We enjoyed providing this service, but we need to be assured of appropriate funding to carry forth the needed services and we cannot equitably compete with a large, multi-state and national provider.

The hospital will do everything possible to make this transition as easy as possible and we encourage our patients to be positive and open for this change in service."

Carthage Area Hospital will be reallocating the 6,000 square feet of space used to house the Veterans Administration Clinic to a much needed primary care center.  The hospital is adding several new providers whom will be arriving within the next 60 days.  Our community is federally designated as a Healthcare Professional Shortage Area and we need to continually work to recruit and retain more practitioners. 

This is even more so today with the recent and untimely passing of Dr. Frank Harvey.

The new site will be providing a full range of timely healthcare intervention to include family practice and pediatrics.  Due to the fortunate increase in physician recruitment, we will be able to serve many new patients who currently do not have the availability of timely provider services.

This center will further include the capability to offer laborotory blood drawing and specimen services, EKGs, dietetic services, allergy injections, etc.

The hospital will be announcing detailed plans for this site within the next couple of weeks.  We hope to maintain all of our existing employees during this transitional period.





Thursday, December 8, 2016
, Watertown, NY

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