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Medical help for veterans bolstered at Inverness clinic

A second doctor returns to duty, and a third will be recruited to help whittle down a waiting list for patients.

By JIM ROSS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 24, 2002


INVERNESS -- Veterans who use -- or want to use -- the Inverness VA Outpatient Clinic received some good news this week.

The clinic's second doctor has returned from maternity leave and the clinic will begin recruiting a third doctor within the next 30 days. When that doctor starts work, he or she will bring accompanying support personnel, said John Pickens, a spokesman for the federal Department of Veterans Affairs, which operates the clinic.

Meanwhile, the VA is negotiating to lease additional space at its Central Avenue office campus.

If all goes as planned, the list of veterans waiting for an initial clinic visit should evaporate within nine to 12 months, Pickens said.

The clinic, which opened in summer 2000, provides primary health care for Citrus veterans. But patient volume, temporary personnel vacancies and other factors combined to leave the clinic unable to meet the considerable demand for services.

As of March, veterans were told they had to wait nine months before undergoing a basic exam.

Many veterans in Citrus and elsewhere rely on VA clinics not just for medical care, but also for prescriptions. Most veterans seeking medical service are 65 or older and thus are enrolled in Medicare, which does not have a prescription drug program.

The VA provides prescription services through its mail-order pharmacy and other outlets, but only if the prescription comes from a VA provider.

During the first quarter of fiscal 2000-01 (October through December), the clinic recorded 1,284 outpatient visits involving 721 veterans, Pickens said.

During the same period in 2001-02, the clinic recorded 2,085 visits from 1,319 veterans, he said.

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