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VA taking steps to reopen beds

Incremental inpatient care resumes next week

– Six hospital beds will reopen next week at Fort Wayne’s VA Medical Center, the start of the second phase of a program to resume inpatient care there.

The Department of Veterans Affairs Northern Indiana Health Care System announced Friday afternoon that, starting at 9 a.m. Wednesday, it will “begin integrating patients with more complex conditions” and open inpatient beds incrementally until all 26 are in service by the end of March. Six beds will be available Wednesday.

“We’re starting a month earlier than we expected,” Sheryl Grubb, public affairs officer for the regional system, said in a phone interview.

VANIHCS announced in December that it had begun the first phase in the restoration of inpatient care by restarting chemotherapy infusions. Two inpatient beds are devoted to those services.

After March, the system will evaluate resuming its telemetry program and then its six-bed intensive care unit, Grubb said.

“We focus all our energy on each phase,” she said.

The med center temporarily suspended inpatient care in October and began referring patients to other hospitals inside and outside the VA system. At the time, VA said it was improving its processes and patient care and providing training to its staff.

In November, after pressure from Hoosier congressmen, VA acknowledged vacancies in key medical and administrative positions at the Lake Avenue complex.

At the same time, the agency appointed a permanent director – Denise Deitzen, a former nurse who had run VA’s Saginaw, Mich., medical center – to replace an interim director.

Grubb said Friday the local complex has hired a chief of medicine and an assistant chief of primary care. Each will begin work in March. Still vacant are the positions of chief of extended care and chief of mental health. The medical center employs more than 600 people.

Sens. Dan Coats, R-Ind., and Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., issued statements Friday praising the center’s progress in restoring inpatient beds.

“We have a responsibility to serve those who served us, and I am pleased to see these beds being reopened at the Fort Wayne VA Medical Center,” Donnelly said.

“This is good news for our heroes in northeast Indiana and an important step in the process of improving care at the Fort Wayne hospital,” Coats said.

Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, was terse in his comment.

“I’ve been clear that anything less than the best possible care for our veterans is inexcusable,” Stutzman said in a prepared statement. “While I am encouraged that the VA is taking an important step forward, they have more work ahead to fulfill the health care needs of veterans in northeast Indiana.”

bfrancisco@jg.net

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