Trying to bring care closer to its patients, the Department of Veterans Affairs said last week that it plans to open 39 outpatient clinics in 22 states, some run by private providers.
Five of the new clinics happen to be in Pennsylvania-home state of Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.).
The additions, part of an ongoing effort to reduce reliance on inpatient care at the 173-hospital system, would bring the number of clinics the VA has opened since early 1995 to more than 100.
But some of the new facilities appear to be aimed at assuaging Specter's complaints that the VA's ongoing restructuring plans are shortchanging Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania will have five new clinics opening from Tobyhanna in the east to Greensburg in the west. Only one other state, California, is slated to receive five new outpatient clinics.
Specter had complained about the new VA capitation system that took effect earlier this year. He said it would make the VA healthcare network that includes Pennsylvania eighth in funding among the 22 VA networks, although the state ranks second of all states in its veteran population over age 65 (April 7, p. 76).
The state's lower budget may have resulted because several of its VA hospitals are in rural areas and have not been as heavily used. That leads to reduced funding because capitation rates were based on the number of patients, not on the population of veterans in a network or state.
VA officials said opening the new facilities had nothing to do with Specter's complaints. They said the timing of the opening of those clinics was part of the normal process of approving such facilities.
They also said a substantial number of the new facilities would be operated by private providers, although the final arrangements had yet to be approved.
The new clinics are proposed by local network or hospital officials and must be run within existing network budgets.