Approximately $12.3 million has been approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs' South Central VA Health Care Network for health care improvements at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC). The MEDVAMC was notified last month about this supplement to its current budget of about $542 million. These additional funds will be used to expand specialty care at its outpatient clinics in Beaumont, Conroe, and Lufkin; add 20 inpatient beds to its Mental Health Care Line; boost dental services; increase space for radiotherapy technology; and support several smaller projects.
"We will use these resources to fund important projects that will significantly increase access to health care and improve medical services for veterans in southeast Texas," said Edgar L. Tucker, M.P.H., F.A.C.H.E., MEDVAMC director.
To expand outpatient care, a physician assistant cross-trained in otolaryngology, urology, and orthopedics will be hired for each of the VA outpatient clinics in Beaumont, Conroe, and Lufkin. Added ear, nose, and throat services will include screening consults and cerumen removal, while urology care will concentrate on screening and medical management of Benign Prostate Hyperplasia (enlargement of the prostate gland).
To provide consults and hearing-aid repairs, a part-time audiologist and part-time audiology health technician will be hired for the VA outpatient clinics in Beaumont and Conroe. An audiology program will be established at the Charles Wilson VA Outpatient Clinic in Lufkin when it moves to its new location in early 2009.
In the Mental Health Care Line, a new, inpatient unit with 10 beds will be established to focus on the anticipated needs of our nation's newest veterans, the troops who have served in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq (OIF).
The MEDVAMC will also add a mental health unit with 10 beds especially for women veterans. By 2010, women veterans will make up more than 14 percent of the total veteran population. This new inpatient unit will respond to the unique mental health needs of this group.
To improve dental services for veterans, the MEDVAMC will hire nine dental assistants, a dentist, a hygienist, a laboratory technician, and two operatory assistants. Currently, an average of 200 new, eligible veterans apply for dental care each month.