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New VA clinic open

After 90 day absence, local services available

December 02, 2009
LITTLETON—After a three month absence, there is again a Veteran's Administration (VA) clinic operating in Littleton.

The new clinic opened with little fanfare Oct. 1 on Meadow Street, in the old Butson's building, right next to Tractor Supply.

Andy LaCasse, the acting public relations officer for the White River Junction, Vt., VA hospital, said the 90 day turnaround for opening a new clinic was fantastic.

"It's pretty amazing to get anything done in the federal government that fast," LaCasse said. It takes a long time to get government contracts approved and in place, he said.

The previous clinic, located in Littleton Regional Hospital, closed July 1 after the doctors who ran it decided not to renew their contract and returned to private practice. The VA had been looking for both a new location and provider ever since. In the meanwhile it provided medical services to veterans out of the VA hospital in White River Junction, Vt.

When the old clinic closed 2,800 patients served by it were left without services. They were informed of the clinic closing a few weeks before it happened.

"We expected to hear a lot of complaints from people but people were very understanding," LaCasse said. "We heard no complaints at all."

Even though arrangements were made to use vans from the Disabled American Veterans and other organizations to get patients to White River Junction, the service was only used a handful of times, he said.

"Those are independent, hardy New Englanders we were serving. They just went ahead and made other arrangements," LaCasse said. He said the community and LRH had been quite supportive.

LaCasse said all 2,800 formerly served by the old clinic were sent letters informing them of the new clinic. He said it was likely some patients switched to local primary care doctors but the VA was ready to serve them again. The VA is actively targeting Vietnam veterans for service, a group underserved before.

The company subcontracted by the VA to run the clinic is called Sterling Medical, out of New York, and already runs several other VA clinics, LaCasse said.

"The key to getting the clinic up and running so quickly was to get an experienced company like Sterling to do it," LaCasse said.

When contacted Monday, Maryanne Richards, Sterling's administrator on site, had not been authorized to conduct interviews yet. LaCasse however noted the clinic has one fulltime doctor, a full time physician's assistant and a part-time nurse practitioner, as well as three to six nurses and four administrative staff.

In addition to its regular hours Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., this clinic will also be open Saturdays 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

"That is unusual for a VA clinic," LaCasse said.

Much lab work will be done through LRH, he said, as the VA continues to expand its presence here. Within the next year to two it plans on opening a clinic in Newport, Vt., he said.

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