The director of the Gulf Coast Veterans Health System says he expects to increase the amount of outside care offered to veterans this year, as he continues to work to improve access for patients. MPB’s Evelina Burnett reports.
Gulf Coast VA director Anthony Dawson said during his annual state of the system report that 93 percent of the time, patients are able to get an appointment for primary care services in 30 days or less. But to try to bridge the gap for the 7 percent who aren’t, Dawson says he’s looking for creative ways to partner with community providers, including local hospitals and doctors.
"We're also using more telehealth, where a person could be in Little Rock but doing some work for us, where it doesn't necessarily require face-to-face or in-person visits," he says. "So we're combining a lot of things to take us over the top."
Dawson also called on the local community to let the VA or VA employees know if they meet veterans who are in need. Travis Ladner says his neighbor, who is a veteran, needed help, and he let Dawson know about it when the two happened to meet. Ladner said his neighbor just needed a little extra assistance.
"A lot of people need a litlte help along the way," he says. "Any time you can reach out to help someone, it makes me feel good to do that, and I think everyone else will feel good too."
The Gulf Coast VA spent $76 million on care by outside providers last year. Dawson expects that number to be about $6 million higher this year.