MAY 8, 2015, WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFNS) – A new agreement was signed here May 1 in an effort to dramatically improve the timeliness of medical care to veterans throughout Ohio and optimize the training and readiness of personnel at the Wright-Patterson Medical Center (WPMC).
Col. Timothy Ballard, the commander of the 88th Medical Group, and Jack Hetrick, the network director for Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN 10), signed the agreement to create the Buckeye Federal Healthcare Consortium, charged to optimize the utilization of Defense Department and Veterans Affairs medical resources in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky.
“This is a phenomenal opportunity to bring in increased case complexity and some more through-put while not adversely impacting at all beneficiaries through our TRICARE system,” Ballard said. “This is just involving specialty care. Everybody’s primary care teams are exactly the same and unchanged. You’ll still have the exact same access to seeing your primary care providers as you ever had before.’
In essence, the agreement will allow the VA to send veterans to WPMC for inpatient or outpatient services, expanding the current relationship between VISN 10 and the DOD. Data about fulfilling VA patients’ needs in a timely manner will be compared with services available at the WPMC.
“This is a huge deal in terms of not only public/public partnerships but this is a huge deal in supporting our veterans,” said Col. John Devillier, the commander of the 88th Air Base Wing. “It’s monumentally important in terms of the services that we can provide to the veterans who have earned that entitlement. On the flip side, it does great things for our medical staff here at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.”
The commander explained that by providing care to the veterans from the VA, medical center staff members’ credentialing is aided and their skills are enhanced, resulting in even better care to warfighters.
“It’s mutually beneficial on both sides of the aisle,” Devillier said. “This provides our medical staff the opportunity to view cases that normally they would not see, ones that are much more complex and more in line with what they would see in a deployed environment.”
Devillier commended Ballard for his leadership in bringing the agreement to fruition.
The agreement will pave the way for future agreements between the VA and the DOD nationally, he said.
Hetrick said Dayton and Columbus VA centers have been referring patients to the 88 MDG.
“Now we are able to extend it to all of our facilities throughout VISN 10 which is really a great opportunity,” he said.
“Our task now is to continue to work closely with the Air Force in providing access to effective and quality health care services and programs. We will give every veteran the seamless, integrative, responsive and personalized experience,” Hetrick said. “This is one measure that helps achieve our vision.”
While Ohio veterans’ wait times for care have been better than in other places, Hetrick said, the VA focused on meeting the veterans’ timeliness expectations, and the partnership will assist that.
Ballard said when he was hired eight months ago by Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Thomas Travis, the Air Force surgeon general, he was charged with taking care of the business, ensuring the 88 MDG’s personnel were optimally trained and taking care of as many patients as possible. He began work on the agreement almost from his first day, he said.
“I saw this as an opportunity to partner with the VA in a symbiotic manner,” Ballard said. “We have capacity in our sub-specialties across the board to bring in quite a bit of volume.”
He pointed out that the WPMC is a comprehensive medical center that provides care to a young, healthy population, but that means not all sub-specialty physicians are completely current to deploy and take care of anyone in harm’s way.
He credited Lt. Col. Thomas Lesnick and other staff members for their assistance with the agreement.
The general remarked that focusing on readiness and being prepared to go to war again is the medical force’s next challenge. The training pipeline of doctors, nurses and technicians at the 88th MDG will benefit from caring for the additional veterans.
“We really benefit from taking care of veterans so these veterans, who have contributed so much, will now contribute in another way,” Travis said. “We get to take great care of them, which is a true privilege and an honor, but they get to contribute to the readiness of the next generation.
“This agreement is custom-made for success,” Travis said.