Local VA clinic may relocateAn estimated 800 patients of the Dickinson community-based outpatient clinic, which provides medical care for veterans in the Dickinson area, may have to look elsewhere for care after May 1, when the contract with Great Plains Clinic officially ends.
An estimated 800 patients of the Dickinson community-based outpatient clinic, which provides medical care for veterans in the Dickinson area, may have to look elsewhere for care after May 1, when the contract with Great Plains Clinic officially ends.
If a new contact isn’t established with another agency in Dickinson by May 1, veterans may have to travel to Williston, Bismarck or Sturgis, S.D., among other sites to receive care at community-based outreach clinics.
The VA clinic has been in Dickinson for three years, said Leslie Ross, Stark/Dunn County veteran service officer.
Ross said Great Plains offers VA-contracted care.
“It is the only community-based outreach clinic that is co-located with another privately run industry in the state,” Ross said.
Dickinson resident Mike Hatzenbuhler, an Army veteran who uses the VA clinic, said he was notified via a letter that the contract was ending and has concerns over where he may have to go to receive medical care.
“There’s a lot of these vets in nursing homes and we’re all getting to that age where driving too far isn’t the best either,” Hatzenbuhler said.
Hatzenbuhler said he visits the VA clinic in Dickinson about every six months.
A spokesperson at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Fargo said the VA has contracting staff “diligently” working toward procuring a new contract in Dickinson.
“What they do is they go out for bids, when a contract is up they go out for bids, and so anyone can apply for that contract, including Great Plains or someone else if they want to,” said Peggy Wheelden, public affairs officer for the Fargo Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
Wheelden said she could not reveal whether or not Great Plains was bidding on the contract, saying, “I can’t release any of that because they keep all of that confidential while they’re working through the process.”
Great Plains Clinic staff referred all questions regarding the contract to the Fargo Veterans Affairs office.
Wheelden said those veterans who require appointments after May 1 are being put on an appointment list.
“As soon as we have a new contract in place with whomever that is, then we will notify those people right away and let them know,” Wheelden said.
If a new contract isn’t established by May 1, Wheelden said the agency will be working with veterans to accommodate their medical needs elsewhere.
“Patient care is an upmost priority for us, and we want everything to run as seamless for our patients as possible,” Wheelden said. “We will notify everyone what our plan would be (if a new contract isn’t established by May 1).”
It is not the intent of the agency to eliminate the Dickinson VA clinic, she added.
State Sen. George Nodland, R-Dickinson, who worked on getting a VA clinic in Dickinson, and a veteran himself, said the clinic was much-needed and has been used extensively.
Nodland said he has been in contact with Sen. Kent Conrad’s office as well as other officials.
“It was a shock to me to hear this,” Nodland said. “There’s so many World War II veterans that are financially in the position that they cannot afford to take a bus or find a way to get to Fargo or to South Dakota or to Miles City, Mont.”
Ross said the clinic is important to all area veterans.
“This is devastating to southwest North Dakota veterans, not having access to care,” Ross said. “This community worked really, really hard to get this clinic here. I would recommend every single veteran that uses that facility contact their representatives, contact their mayor, contact the governor, and tell them how displeased they are.
“The bottom line here is, what is the alternative?”
For veterans with immediate concerns and questions, call 800-410-9723, press 9, then enter ext. 4590.