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Veterans clinic adds services ahead of schedule.

Philip (Flip) Arnold, manager of the Wenatchee Veteran's Administration community-based outpatient clinic, gives the upcoming year the "an absolute 10."

The clinic, which opened in August, has already exceeded enrollment expectations. The VA forecasted 6,000 enrollees--or 2,000 per year--in the first three years for the WenatcheeCBOC, but the clinic enrolled 2,000 veterans in its first four months of operation. Arnold said that is because the Wenatchee CBOC has filled a niche that was sorely needed.

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"Veterans have a tight to choose where they go to obtain health care services. Many of them did not really desire to drive to Spokane or Seattle to get care--for many it was a two-day trip just to get a check up. There was a strong need for something to be placed here," Arnold said.

About two-thirds or 1,300 of the CBOC's enrolled patients came from the Spokane Medical Center.

Based on the strong enrollment numbers, Arnold is already looking at providing additional services to the member veterans.

"We are working on identifying services that can be expanded into the Wenatchee CBOC. We are currently looking at tele-retinal scanning and audiology testing probably in the first quarter," Arnold said.

Tele-retinal scanners are used to diagnose and test-for diabetes and glaucoma. The audiology department would perform hearing testing and hearing aid fittings, and offer minor repair of heating aids. Arnold's wish list contains even more items for the future, but those will be assigned priority by community need and number of patients over the next few years.

Right now, the clinic offers primary care and internal medicine services, as well as psychiatric services. A medical social worker is also on staff to help connect veterans to social services and local organizations that they may benefit from. As of Dec. 1, 2007, the clinic added phlebotomy (blood drawing) to its offerings and hired additional staff to handle the work.

If enrollment numbers remain high, Arnold envisions being able to hire three or four more providers in the next three years to complement his existing staff of 11, including three fulltime practitioners.

"We are actually advertising for another practitioner right now," Arnold added.

The 13,000-square-foot VA Clinic at 2530 Chester Kimm Road in Olds Station, was built in 2003-2004. According to the lease agreement on file with Chelan County, the government signed a five-year lease on the property with owner Confluence Properties, LLC. The lease runs through July 31, 2012 for a total lease amount of $210,226.25.

The Wenatchee CBOC came into being largely through the efforts of Bud Link (now deceased) and members of the Cashmere Veterans of Foreign Wars. U.S. Senator Patty Murray also played a role. Originally, the veterans had tried to get the Cascade Medical Center designated as a VA Hospital.

"The discussions went on for about six years, but the decision never came through. Then this building came up on the market and we switched gears--with Patty Murray's assistance--and were able to make it happen," Arnold said.

Arnold has spent a good portion of his life in health care administration. He previously ran two clinics on the Colville Indian Reservation and Cascade Medical Center in Leavenworth. He called the Wenatchee CBOC the most positive place he has ever worked.
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Title Annotation:OUTLOOK 2008
Author:Davis, Yvette
Publication:Wenatchee Business Journal
Geographic Code:1U9WA
Date:Jan 1, 2008
Words:546
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