Telehealth clinic considers move

Surge in patients leads managers thinking of moving facility

Operators of the Craig VA Telehealth Outreach Clinic are considering a move.

The clinic, at 551 Tucker St., has seen a surge in patients in the past six months. The upturn in patients has indicated to managers that moving the facility to a bigger building in Craig will be helpful in dealing with the increased volume.

“We’re matching the needs to the patients,” said Paul Sweeney, a spokesman for the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Grand Junction, the source of the clinic’s telecommunication.

Sweeney said the Craig clinic, which opened in September 2007, had a good initial response, then plateaued, only to increase in patient volume within the last year.

“Last year, around April, our numbers were still under 300,” he said. “Now, they have more than 580 veterans going there.”

Sweeney said the client numbers had increased by 25 percent in the past six months. More than 700 patient visits were recorded in this time period.

Sweeney attributed the larger patient load to promotion by American Legion Post 62, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4265, radio station KRAI-FM, and the Craig Daily Press.

The clinic functions as a way for area veterans receiving medical care from the Veterans Administration to interact with medical staff in Grand Junction, while being overseen by full-time nurses in Craig.

“People have said they really prefer doing the pre- and post-op appointments in Craig instead of coming all the way to Grand Junction,” Sweeney said.

Patients from Craig, Steamboat Springs, Meeker, Maybell and Baggs, Wyo., among other towns in the region, visit the clinic for examinations and to take advantage of the clinic’s features, such as diabetes work and free flu shots.

Sweeney said the lesser distance of the clinic allows patients to save money on gas and other expenses.

“Not having to stay here overnight and spend money on a hotel makes a huge difference for them,” he said. “Plus, being physically closer to treatment areas means being physically safer.”

The move to a new building within the area will not only allow for more space, Sweeny said, but it could potentially drop costs for the clinic.

“If we have a bigger building, we can get even more patients, and that could help decrease expenses,” he said. “It depends on the economy, though.”

Sweeney said the organization has received two solicitations for a new location, which representatives plan to look into next week.

He also said moving the clinic could allow for a part-time position on the medical staff to open, which he said likely would be filled locally.

“We seldom hire people from outside the community,” he said. “We do our best to make sure the staff is plugged in to what’s happening there.”

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