VETERANS CARE: Southern California Health Systems To Merge
The West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the VA's Southern California Systems of Clinics are merging into what the Los Angeles Times says is expected to be "the largest regional veterans health care system in the United States." The "integrated medical system," to be called the VA Southern California Health Care System, will have a budget of $400 million annually and will serve Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Ventura, Kern and San Luis Obispo counties, according to federal officials. It will serve "more than 75,000 patients at 12 facilities." A new centralized patient record system will be created as part of the consolidation, and the new network will keep its affiliations with the University of California-Los Angeles and the University of Southern California medical schools. The major facilities to be involved are the Los Angles VA Center, the Los Angles Outpatient Clinic and the Sepulveda clinic. The Times reports that six new clinics are now in the planning stage, and three others will soon open in Lompoc, Oxnard and San Luis Obispo. While there are no plans at the present time to incorporate the VA's Long Beach or Loma Linda facilities into the new network, "officials did not rule out their inclusion later on."
Time For A Change
According to VA Undersecretary for Health Dr. Kenneth Kizer, the purposes of the merger are to "reduce administrative duplication and put the savings into improved patient services and expanded access" and create "closer and more convenient care." Kizer said, "We're moving money from paper pushers to clinicians. That's really what it's is all about." The Times notes that the consolidation "is part of a larger trend in the Veterans Health Administration system ... toward outpatient care as opposed to hospitalization." Since 1994, almost half of VA hospitals have closed while 210 new clinics "have been added" (Marquis, 4/10).