Al Barnett is one of over 40-thousand Veterans to receive service from Fort Wayne's VA hospital. For the past few years, the Vietnam Veteran was receiving care at the VA's wound care clinic, but that changed when the unit abruptly closed and the nurse practitioners were reassigned.
"if I want medical service or wound care, I must go to Indianapolis", said Al.
For some Veterans like Albert, traveling long distances can be difficult, but the VA does offer a number of transportation options. In Albert's case, he was lucky enough to have his brother-in-law drive him to his treatments every 3-4 weeks.
The VA told us, nationwide, they're moving toward a more "patient centered" approach to primary care. They send the more complex cases to Indy, as they always have. The care is called "PACT" or Patient Alignment Care Team. It follows a new direction from the VA and also new changes as a result of the Healthcare Reform Act.
The decision to close the wound care facility after 5 years was made after analyzing services and workload.
"We looked at the workload and determined that in order to meet the needs of the Veteran in the PACT model we needed to integrate patients back into the primary case scenario. We look at our staff and make sure we're able to handle the patients within the primary care model and we refer those, that are not, to the community or tertiary care in either Indianapolis or Ann Arbor, Michigan. That's typical of what we've done in the past", said Audrey Frieson, V-A Associate Director of Patient Care.
On average about 20 patients used the wound care clinic, many are now traveling to Indianapolis, while Al has used his own insurance to receive treatment at St. Joe Hospital, where he's seen dramatic improvement and calls it a blessing in disguise.
He's also quick to point out, the difference the VA Hospital in Fort Wayne makes in lives like his.
"the V-A, for me, was a lifesaver. It was a Godsend. I don't know where I'd be without the V-A.", said Al.
Al still travels to Indy to be treated for his Glaucoma, meanwhile the VA Hospital says its role hasn't changed as a primary secondary facility, one that will send patients needing tertiary care to another facility.
Back in 2004, The CARES commission nearly closed the inpatient care at the V-A hospital in Fort Wayne.
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