Veterans

August 30, 2012

VA medical center opens, keeps strong ties to Mike O’Callaghan

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By Senior Airman Jack Sanders
99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Ashfaq Shafiq, Veterans Affairs pharmacist, and Capt. Renee Shirakawa, 99th Medical Support Squadron pharmacist, check expiration dates and log numbers on intravenous bags before dispensing to patients Aug. 27, 2012, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. VA and 99th Medical Group personnel work together daily to provide care to veterans and Department of Defense beneficiaries.

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — Las Vegas’s newest Veterans Affairs Medical Center will continue a long history of teamwork and cooperation with the Mike O’Callaghan Federal Medical Center.

The VAMC was dedicated Aug. 6, and is estimated to service approximately 60,000 veterans living in Nevada. Many of those veterans currently receive care from the Mike O’Callaghan FMC.

“This is not a divorce,” said Col. John DeGoes, 99th Medical Group commander. “The award-winning, joint venture between the Air Force and the VA that primarily occurs in the Mike O’Callaghan Federal Medical Center will continue in Las Vegas long into the future. Only, now, there are two outstanding medical centers, separated by only four miles, dedicated to the best possible care for our patients — the nation’s heroes of the past, present and future.”

Most VA care will occur at the new facility; however, once the new VAMC fully opens, veterans will still have the option of either facility for their emergency medical care needs. Because of that choice, the quality of care for veterans and

Department of Defense patients, due to wait-time and workload, will be improved.

“There is extensive cooperation,” DeGoes said. “We work side by side with our VA partners in multiple units of the MOFMC including the Operating Room, Intensive Care Unit, Emergency Room, lab, radiology and pharmacy to name just a few.”

The coordination between the VA and the MOFMC is managed by the Joint Venture Executive Council, chaired alternately by the 99th MDG commander and the VA’s local District Director.

“The JVEC will continue to manage cooperative, high quality care, and sharing of our dual capabilities and capacities,” he said. “We think it will be a win-win-win for the [Department of Defense], VA patients and taxpayers.”

The opening of the VAMC took six years, and cost nearly $600 million. The undertaking took large amounts of coordination and care from the VAMC leadership team to safely move services, DeGoes said. Many services in the VAMC are operational, but it will take time for all of the center’s capabilities to be operational. Currently, the center offers services from its eye clinic, infectious diseases facility and pharmacy. The main laboratory and specialty care facilities are expected to open late September

“We expect that around early 2013, the VA [ICU] unit and [OR] staff will be well into their move,” DeGoes said. “Safe patient care will be the primary factor driving the transition timeline.”

The VA move will have no effect on 99th MDG patients DeGoes said.

Veterans’ electronic medical records will automatically transfer to the VAMC, while any hard copy records will move as part of the phased transition during the upcoming months. In the future, the 99th MDG will continue, whenever possible, to document veterans care in the VA’s electronic medical record to optimize continuity of care.

With the VAMC opening, the opportunity exists for continued reliance on VA/DOD sharing to satisfy strategic goals of both facilities. As the VA vacates the MOFMC, re-programming vacated space to 99 MDG supports growth which will be satisfied with a $70M phased “hospital repair” project starting in late 2012 through 2015. The project will net 70 beds for the Air Force (48 medical-surgical ward, a 14-bed OB unit, and 8 critical care beds). Together, there will be 160 inpatient beds, a net growth of 57 beds — a solid basis for future sharing initiatives between the Air Force and VA, supporting veterans and DOD beneficiaries of Las Vegas.




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