Apr 8, 2016 8:13 PM by News Staff
Veterans Affairs clinic in Chico serves thousands of vets in Butte, Tehema and Glenn Counties but for local veterans seeking medical care making an appointment with a primary physician can be a challenge.
While the Veterans Affairs Chico outpatient clinic offers a number of medical services to U.S. veterans.
When it comes to seeing a primary physician, not all veterans are happy about how efficient the clinic is in getting them into an exam room and in front of a doctor.
“Usually when you get an appointment here, you're ailment has passed and you don't need an appointment anymore,” said Scott Miller, U.S. Navy Veteran and clinic patient.
Don Black, an Air Force veteran and onsite director of Chico’s VA Outpatient clinic, serves about 7,000 veterans in need of primary care.
Dealing with that kind of number, with only four full-time doctors on staff can be a challenge, Black admits.
Nearly 15 percent of veterans currently scheduled for a doctor’s appointment are looking at more than a 30 day wait.
“What we do offer for those who can't get within their time frame, beyond the 30 days,” Black said. “We have what we call the Choice Act, enacted in 2014, so that vets can choose. There's physicians in the community that have partnered with the VA to access care.”
Also, veterans that live outside 40 miles of the clinic can use an outside provider.
Nonetheless, Black says the clinic is looking to hire an additional two primary physicians.
Not an easy task, there's a high demand for doctors nationwide, and the Chico market can be a hard sell.
“I believe probably due to the remoteness of our community here,” Black said. “A lot of people are looking for smaller settings but closer to a large city, it’s just been difficult”
What could be a recruiting enticement for potential new physicians is that the outpatient clinic located here on Cohasset Road. In two years, time will be moving to a brand new facility.
It will be located on one of five proposed sites on Bruce Road. At 42,000 square feet, it will be twice the size of the current building and will allow all medical services to be provided under one roof.
Scheduled to open in the summer of 2018, it will be the first of 26 new clinics to go up around the country.
“I think it’s exciting and a kudos for Chico for how we're trying to get quicker access to the veterans and a better facility for the veterans,” Black said.
Improvements on the way, that the veterans we spoke to applaud.
“I think it's a great idea to get a bigger clinic here,” Miller said. “Chico has grown a lot, and with the war, there's a lot more vets in the Chico area.”
“I think it’s about time, long overdue,” said Bill Paulsen, U.S. Army veteran. “We're running out of room for the vets.”
When the new facility opens physical therapy and optometry will be added to the clinic’s services.
Redding has also been approved for a new clinic, but no time line has been established yet, on when that project will go forward.
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