DANVILLE — The Veterans Affairs Illiana Healthcare System announced Friday that it's moving toward an official downgrading of some its medical services at its main campus in Danville.
Local VA officials have been evaluating for some time what level of care should be provided at the Danville campus, according to Doug Shouse, spokesman with the VA Illiana Healthcare System. Recently, the VA in Danville received approval from the Veterans Health Administration to go forward with restructuring its clinical programs and services, according to a news release on Friday.
Shouse said some of the changes are precipitated by a difficulty in recruiting specialty physicians. The news release characterized it as an "extreme challenge" in recruiting and retaining subspecialty medical professionals, and also references a "consistent low volume of patients" coming to the facility.
"It's hard for us in Danville to attract certain specialties, so there are certain things we can or can't do," Shouse said.
What that means, he said, is if a veteran comes in experiencing chest pain, and the facility doesn't have the proper cardiology specialist here or one within a 30-minute drive, then the VA must do the best it can do to treat that veteran and get him or her to the nearest medical facility that does have the appropriate level of services and specialists.
Shouse said although these changes will not be officially recognized within the VA system until a later date, the change in services has, for the most part, already happened. The facility has been operating at a downgraded level for some time. Shouse said there won't be too much impact on staff. He said there will be no job losses, but some staff may be moved to other areas.
The restructuring will affect three areas at the VA in Danville:
— There will be no intensive care unit beds. Shouse said there won't be any real immediate change, because the facility hasn't used its ICU in more than a year.
— The emergency department will change to an urgent care department. If someone comes in to the emergency department, Shouse said, with chest pains, shortness of breath or is unconscious, it's hard to treat them here, because there are no services for immediate emergency needs. Shouse said if it's not an emergency situation, the veteran is referred to the VA hospital in Indianapolis, but if it's an emergency situation, the veterans are referred to hospitals in Danville or Urbana.
— The surgical services designation will change from standard to ambulatory, which means outpatient surgeries only.
Shouse said the facility was an intermediate surgery site prior to 2010 but was changed to standard surgery that year, because more complicated surgeries couldn't be handled at that time. Now, it will again change, but from standard to ambulatory. Shouse said that means the facility will be doing surgeries that require a stay of 23 hours or less.
The facility has developed a memorandum of understanding with local community hospitals to enhance their relationships with those medical facilities and their ability to provide services to the veterans, according to the news release.
"The goal is to provide safe and efficient patient care. That can only happen if patients are placed in the appropriate level of care, have an infrastructure that supports it and staff are able to maintain an appropriate level of competence," the news release stated.
Shouse said the facility has been notifying veteran service organizations and other medical providers, like Medix Ambulance, and using other means to communicate to veterans in the area what level of services they can now expect at the Danville VA. Shouse said the facility likely will still have veterans coming in with more serious cases than what can be handled, but that's why agreements have been arranged with local hospitals in Danville and Urbana.