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VA center resuming inpatient treatment

First of 3 phases complete

The Department of Veterans Affairs announced Monday it has completed the first part of a three-phase resumption of inpatient care at its Fort Wayne medical complex.

The VA Medical Center renovated its acute care unit and began chemotherapy infusions Monday, said Sheryl Grubb, public affairs officer for VA Northern Indiana Health Care System.

She said the Lake Avenue center typically administers chemotherapy to eight to 10 military veterans a month. Each treatment lasts about 48 hours.

At least three patients were scheduled to start treatments Monday and today, Grubb said in a telephone interview.

The next two phases for restoring inpatient services will be the resumption of cardiac monitoring and intensive care.

“We will work our way up to each phase restart and then to the full capacity in the first quarter of 2013,” Grubb said.

“We’ve redone our processes, we’ve created new policies, and we are starting at low complexity (patients), and we’re going to continue to build upon that,” she said.

In all, the facility has about 30 hospital beds.

The VA Medical Center suspended inpatient care in late October, saying at the time it needed to review processes and train staff. Grubb said in November that inpatient services might resume in the first three months of 2013.

Since then, four vacancies in key medical positions – directors of medicine, primary care, mental health and geriatrics – have been filled with interim or acting personnel from within VA, Grubb said Monday. The medical center will continue to recruit permanent replacements, she added.

VA officials had a briefing Monday morning with staff members of four area congressmen and veterans services officers from about 25 counties.

VA Inspector General George Opfer recently agreed to review the decision to suspend inpatient care at the request of Reps. Joe Donnelly, D-2nd, and Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd. Donnelly and Stutzman are members of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

Staff members for Stutzman, Senator-elect Donnelly and Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., said Monday there have been multiple conversations involving the lawmakers, their staffs and VA officials, including Robert Petzel, the department’s under secretary for health.

“The VA will be providing regular updates, so we can assure that adequate progress is being made to restore normal operations,” Elizabeth Shappell, communications director for Donnelly, said in an email.

Also at Monday’s medical center briefing was a staffer for Ohio Rep. Bob Latta, R-5th. The VA Northern Indiana Health Care System covers counties in northwest Ohio.

Additionally, a spokeswoman for Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said Brown and his staff have been in communications with VA officials about restoring inpatient care in Fort Wayne. Brown is a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

bfrancisco@jg.net

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