CONNECTICUT VA HEALTHCARE SYSTEM
SUBCOMMITTEE ON HEALTH
COMMITTEE ON VETERANS' AFFAIRS
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
June 7, 2004
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:
It is an honor to share with you our efforts to revitalize the Newington Campus of the Connecticut VA Healthcare System. I am pleased to have an opportunity to share VA’s Quality of Care Initiatives, the efforts to reach out to the Rocky Hill State Veterans Home and to troops returning from the Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom, and discuss activities to address the infrastructure needed to support these initiatives.
The Newington Campus has provided care for our Nation’s veterans for 74 years. The shift from inpatient to outpatient care had a major impact on the facility over the last 10 years. Inpatient units were reduced, and consolidated in 1995 to the West Haven Campus. A number of outpatient specialty services were also consolidated at West Haven. The staffing level at the Newington campus was eventually reduced to about 250.
The first successful efforts to revitalize the Newington Campus occurred in 2001 with the leasing of 34,730 square feet of space to the Connecticut National Guard. In 2003 the Newington campus became the site of the New England VA Healthcare System’s Customer Service Call Center that brought another 10 positions to the facility.
In 2004, there are a number of major initiatives underway to revitalize the Newington Campus. The first change has been the relocation of the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Residential Rehabilitation Program (PRRP) to the Newington Campus from the West Haven Campus. The PRRP is an 18-bed, 90-day program that offers a combination of classes, and individual and group therapy. The focus is on Veterans developing sustainable daily life skills and pursuing activities that are personally meaningful. Veterans are helped to develop a personal health and fitness regimen and are matched with supported, part-time volunteer activity that meets treatment goals and offers opportunities for personal fulfillment. PRPP veterans work cooperatively, and with staff support, perform house chores, shopping and cooking. In its new location the program offers a home-like atmosphere well suited for a rehabilitation program.
The next change expected during 2004 is the re-activation of the Dermatology Specialty Clinic and a Chiropractic Clinic. Both clinics are expected to be in place no later than this fall.
The most significant change in 2004 will be the co-location of the Hartford Regional Office to the Newington campus, in a location covering approximately 42,300 square feet. You will hear more about the co-location later in the hearing.
For 2005, we are exploring the re-activation of the Gastroenterology Clinic, and the establishment of an additional support function for the VA New England Healthcare System at Newington.
One of the most exciting initiatives for Newington is that the facility has been approved to pursue, via the enhanced use lease program, a 100-unit privately operated assisted living program on the grounds. It is expected that the Request For Proposals (RFP) will be available this fall. We hope that the project will actively move forward through 2005.
We have continued our focus on providing quality care to the veterans we serve. VA has established an aggressive performance measurement system that looks at 74 different quality indicators. These indicators look at clinical quality issues for cardiac, diabetic, and mental health patients and a host of preventative health indicators. We are proud to report that Connecticut exceeds the VA national average in meeting these indicators. It should be noted that 18 of these indicators can be benchmarked against the private sector, and that the VA exceeds the private sector in all 18.
One of the reasons the VA Connecticut Healthcare System is able to provide such good care is that Newington is a clinical training site for University of Connecticut residents and fellows. Residents and fellows take care of Veterans in Primary Care and Specialty Clinics such as Cardiology, Endocrine, Geriatrics, Renal, Pulmonary, Psychiatry and Rheumatology. In addition, Newington Campus provides clinical training opportunities for pharmacists, optometrists, podiatrists, advanced practice registered nurses and phlebotomists.
We have worked to reduce waiting times over the last 18 months. The Primary Care Service Line implemented an open access program that facilitates the provision of same day or next day appointments. This program has improved both patient and staff satisfaction, while demonstrating improved patient care. Additional efforts have been made and are continuing to be made to reduce the waiting times for specialty clinics.
The VA has an ongoing program to track patient satisfaction. The most recent quarterly report reflects that
Finally, we understand and have fully embraced our responsibility to reach out to our returning troops from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. Staff from VA Connecticut Healthcare System have attended the demobilization briefings of the Connecticut National Guard and Connecticut Reserve Units for approximately 1500 returning Connecticut troops, and have enrolled 230 of them for VA care. In collaboration with VBA, veterans who have filed claims but not applied for VA healthcare benefits are contacted and offered additional assistance with their benefits. Software has been installed to identify combat veterans, and VA Connecticut intake staff has been provided training to efficiently process returning combat veterans. Our staff reviews each case to preclude billing for care associated with their combat service. In addition, in our electronic medical record, a clinical reminder alerts the health care provider at the time of treatment to screen for PTSD, depression, alcohol use, infectious diseases and chronic symptoms endemic to
To support these efforts, we have initiated a number of construction projects. At
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee, I have tried to share with you our efforts to revitalize the Newington Campus of the Connecticut VA Healthcare System. We believe these changes are going to have a very positive impact on the facility and will cement
Mr. Chairman, this concludes my statement, and I will now be happy to answer any of your questions. Thank you.