Indiana, PA - Indiana County

INDIANA COUNTY: Veterans clinic nearer to reality

by on February 13, 2014 11:00 AM

More than 18 months after the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced plans to open a community-based outpatient clinic (CBOC) for military veterans in Indiana County, the proposal is moving forward and there are hopes it may be open by late fall.

Indiana County commission Chairman Rodney Ruddock said Wednesday a planned clinic has moved up one step in the VA’s procurement process.

The proposed Indiana County clinic advanced this week from the pre-solicitation phase to the solicitation phase. The remaining three phases are evaluation, award and start-up.

Ruddock, a longtime supporter of establishing a CBOC in Indiana County to better serve the county’s thousands of veterans, including the growing number of reservists and National Guardsmen who served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, has been telephoning VA on a weekly basis to continually check on the status of a clinic for Indiana County.

He said he may attend a pre-proposal conference next week in Altoona for contractors, businesses and organizations planning to submit proposals to create and operate the clinic as a turnkey operation for the VA.

Proposals for the CBOC in the county must be submitted to the VA by March 21. The proposals will include details on where a vendor would locate the clinic, what services would be offered and at what cost to the VA.

The CBOC in Indiana County will provide new convenience to the hundreds of Indiana County military vets who now travel to VA hospitals and other CBOCs around western Pennsylvania. For many of those vets, a trip to a CBOC involves leaving home early in the morning and not returning until evening.

A local CBOC will furnish primary care, basic medical laboratory services and dispense medications. For many vets it will not eliminate the need to travel to VA hospitals or clinics that offer a wider range of medical services.

Indiana Regional Medical Center in 2007 first proposed to the VA that the hospital’s comprehensive ambulatory care facility, IRMC at Chestnut Ridge near Routes 119 and 22 in Burrell Township, be certified as a VA community-based outpatient clinic. The hospital is now refining a proposal to establish, staff and operate a local CBOC meeting the VA’s latest specifications.

Many of the details of the proposal are proprietary at this stage, but Larry Sedlemeyer, IRMC’s senior vice president of business development and planning, said the hospital’s proposal will meet the VA requirement to locate the CBOC along the Route 119 corridor between Indiana and Blairsville.

IRMC’s proposal is based on information that there are 7,213 living vets in the county. Sedlemeyer said it’s projected that 1,200 vets will use the CBOC in its inaugural year. Use is expected to increase to 2,500 vets in its second year, 3,500 in its third year and 4,000 in subsequent years.

With a projection that each vet will visit the CBOC an average of four times each year, the local CBOC could eventually be handling 16,000 visits annually.

Sedlemeyer said having IRMC create and operate the CBOB makes sense because providing primary care is one of the hospital’s core strengths.

With about 150 medical centers and roughly 800 community-based outpatient clinics, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs operates the largest integrated health care system in the country.

Randy Wells has been a reporter and staff writer at The Indiana Gazette since 1988. His regular assignments include coverage of the Indiana County commissioners, Indiana Borough council and the Marion Center Area School District. His email address is
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