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Focus of VA care changing as facilities in Charlotte, Winston-Salem pick up treatment of veterans

By Sarah Nagem
snagem@salisburypost.com
The veterans’ hospital is eliminating its emergency and inpatient services.
The W.G. “Bill” Hefner VA Medical Center will focus mainly on mental health and long-term care, said Carol Waters, public affairs officer.
The center will work with local hospitals and health care facilities to meet veterans’ medical and surgical needs, Waters said.
The satellite sites in Charlotte and Winston-Salem will provide primary care, mental health and specialty services.
All three locations will offer some outpatient surgeries, Waters said.
She said the changes are aimed at bringing health care services closer to where veterans live.
A national survey of patient loads at VA facilities showed a higher percentage of veterans living in the Charlotte and Winston-Salem areas than in Salisbury, Waters said.
Veterans who have received services at the Salisbury location will not see a change in care, Waters said. Case managers will be assigned to patients to transition their needs to other facilities or hospitals.
“Case management is going to be a huge piece of this,” she said.
But shutting down the emergency room and inpatient care means public hospitals, like Rowan Regional Medical Center, might have to accommodate more veterans.
“Now, already-full hospitals will be inundated with veterans,” said a VA nurse, who did not want to be identified by name.
In the past year, Waters said, the Salisbury VA has had about 2,300 inpatients ó a number she describes as low.
Since more veterans live near Winston-Salem and Charlotte ó and will likely receive inpatient services near there ó it should not be assumed that Rowan Regional will suddenly have a much bigger patient load, Waters said.
The Salisbury site has between 1,600 and 1,700 employees, she said.
Carolyn Adams, director of the Hefner VA, met with hospital staff Friday. Employees were told that no one will lose their jobs, Waters said.
“There will be no reduction in forces,” she said.
Last year, the hospital installed three new surgery suites. Waters said doctors will still be able to use those rooms for outpatient surgeries.
The VA already provides mental health and long-term, or nursing home, care.
“Now … we can really enhance those services,” Waters said.

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