New surgery options to help military vets cut down on travel time
The first of what federal officials and Community Hospital hope will be many surgeries for veterans who might otherwise have to travel hundreds of miles for treatment happened last week.
Surgeons with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs performed a surgery of intermediate complexity at Community Hospital on Thursday, Feb. 20, said Paul Sweeney, spokesman for the Grand Junction VA Medical Center.
The surgery was the first of a partnership between the VA Medical Center and Community Hospital that took shape as the Department of Veterans Affairs set new standards of care that previously made it impossible for the Grand Junction center to provide the necessary staff for such surgeries.
That meant many veterans had to travel to Denver or Salt Lake City to VA medical centers with the appropriate staff for their surgeries, Sweeney said.
The ability to have surgeries at Community Hospital is a significant step for the agency, “but I think the huge advantage is to the veteran,” Sweeney said.
The partnership appears to be the first in the nation and could set the template for similar agreements between VA medical centers in isolated areas and hospitals in their vicinities.
The VA anticipates moving conservatively with some 60 to 80 surgeries a year, Sweeney said, adding, “I can see it growing.”
U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., who had interceded with the VA to allow surgeries for veterans to be performed at Community Hospital, welcomed the step in a statement, saying that veterans on the West Slope “deserve access to the same medical procedures and health care as their urban peers.”
Chris Thomas, president and CEO of Community Hospital said the partnership highlighted “our ability and willingness to work together with our partners so residents don’t have to leave Mesa County to receive medical care.”