VA hospital systems could merge

September 9, 2011
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Veteran Affairs (VA) Boston Healthcare System and Bedford VA Medical Center are investigating the possibility of unifying their programs into one large regional system.

Under the current proposal, no facilities—like the VA hospital at 150 S. Huntington Ave.—would close, no jobs would be lost and no changes would be made to any pay rates. The changes would mostly be clerical and organizational.

“We’re preparing to commit to that recommendation in the next few weeks,” said Kathleen Makela, spokesperson for VA New England, which oversees both Boston and Bedford branches. “The feedback we’ve received has been largely positive.”

VA New England spent several months this summer discussing the possibility with congressional staff, administrators at various centers and veteran service representatives.

“We certainly tried to hit every key stakeholder group,” Makela told the Gazette.

Under a unified system, referrals and transfers would be streamlined due a single electronic medical record for each patient. Patients would also be able to use services wherever they are offered instead of being limited by which system offers it. A patient could see his or her primary physician in a larger hospital, but only have to visit a nearby clinic for blood work.

Specialists only previously available to one network would also be available to all patients.

“We’re still working out the details” when it comes to organization, Makela said. No decision has been made about where a regional headquarters would be located or who would be in charge of the larger system.

“It’s all a proposal at this point. We wanted to get feedback before we made a decision,” Makela explained.

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