The Ely Times

The Veterans Affairs Salt Lake City Health Care Systems is considering not renewing its contract with Ely’s William Bee Ririe Medical Center, which could force local veterans in need of healthcare to travel hundreds of miles for care.

U.S. Rep. Ruben Kihuen issued a letter to the Department of Veterans Affairs protesting this potential change.

“Monday, I sent a letter to the Department of Veterans Affairs urging them to protect health care services for veterans at the Ely Community Clinic in my district,’” he wrote. “Veterans have made incredible sacrifices for our country and deserve the highest quality treatment and care. If the clinic closes, veterans could be forced to travel hundreds of miles to get the care they rely on and deserve.

“We can’t put our veterans healthcare at risk simply to save money, and we should tread carefully when making changes to VA services to ensure we don’t burden these distinguished service men and women.”

U.S. Senator Dean Heller sent a similar letter to Department of Veterans Affairs Director Shella Stovall, director of the VA Salt Lake City Health Care System, demanding the VA guarantee timely and quality health care access for veterans in Ely and the surrounding communities.

“As you know, rural health care for our nation’s heroes is one of my top priorities in the Senate, which is why I raised the importance of this issue with Secretary Shulkin during his confirmation hearing and called on the VA to improve its rural health care delivery,” Heller wrote. “ It has come to my attention that the contract for the Ely VA Clinic, serving hundreds of veterans, will expire within a few days”

Currently, the Ely VA Clinic resides in the William Bee Ririe Hospital, where the doctors within the hospital see veteran patients once the VA sets up an appointment.

It is reported that instead of renewing the contract, the VA has proposed allowing veterans to see the same doctors at the hospital, but that appointments would be scheduled through the VA’s Choice Program.

With these type of changes, Heller asked several questions on how the VA will ensure that Ely veterans receive the same high-quality care under this new proposal, how will the VA guarantee that veterans do not experience disruptions in their critical health care?

Will they coordinate with the third party provider under the Choice Program to ensure appointment scheduling and authorization are timely?

And, last but not least will the Salt Lake City VA commit to hosting a community meeting to inform veterans of how changes to the current VA clinic will impact them? Dean Heller, “Given this change in the delivery of health care, I want to ensure that veterans in Ely receive the same high-quality care in a timely manner and without difficulty.  That is why I am respectfully requesting a detailed explanation”