The Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center will downgrade its 24/7 emergency department to a 12-hour, five-day-a-week urgent care next week, but that will leave Roseburg area veterans with a gap in service on the weekends.
The Roseburg VA is officially converting its emergency department to an urgent care as of Aug. 16, but it won’t offer weekend hours.
Under the new Mission Act that took effect in June, veterans have the option of visiting an urgent care that’s on the VA’s list of in-network private providers.
There’s just one catch, though. None of the in-network private providers are in Roseburg.
“We’re the only area in Southern Oregon that doesn’t have an urgent care that’s on board with the Mission Plan,” said Douglas County Veterans Forum President Larry Hill. He said it would ease Roseburg area veterans’ angst over the recent changes at the VA if a Roseburg urgent care signed onto the VA’s network.
The VA says it’s working on it. Currently, though, the only facility within 50 miles of Roseburg that appears on the VA’s online search for in-network urgent care is Canyonville Health and Urgent Care, and even it does not have weekend hours.
The VA operates clinics in North Bend, Brookings and Eugene, but they are also closed weekends.
Eleven additional in-network urgent cares are listed within 100 miles, with locations including Medford, Ashland, Grants Pass, White City, Brookings, Springfield, Eugene and Lebanon, and they do offer weekend service for those veterans willing and able to get there.
The closest in-network urgent care facilities that offer some weekend hours include Peacehealth Medical Group at 3321 W. 11th Ave., Eugene; Valley Immediate Care, 162 NE Beacon Dr., Suite 103, Grants Pass and Asante Urgent Care at 537 Union Ave., Grants Pass.
Other options within 100 miles of Roseburg include Asante Urgent Care in White City and Medford; Peacehealth Medical Group in Springfield; Valley Immediate Care in North Medford, South Medford and Ashland; Curry Medical Center in Brookings and Samaritan Lebanon Community Hospital in Lebanon.
The Asante, Valley Immediate Care, Peacehealth and Samaritan Lebanon facilities are open weekends during the daytime. Curry Medical Center’s urgent care is open Saturdays but closed Sundays.
Some veterans will have $30 co-pays, depending on their assigned priority group and how many times they’ve already visited an urgent care that year.
There are three private urgent care facilities in Roseburg. All of them have weekend hours. But since they’re not part of the network, the VA won’t pay if veterans receive care at them.
“When Veterans are using their urgent care benefit they must go to an urgent care provider in VA’s network. VA is working diligently with TriWest to add urgent care centers,” said Roseburg VA spokesman Tim Parish on Friday. TriWest is the company contracted with the VA to manage community care for veterans.
The VA referred veterans with questions about urgent care to its website at https://www.va.gov/COMMUNITYCARE/programs/veterans/Urgent_Care.asp
That page leaves veterans with four options if they find themselves at an out-of-network urgent care: to pay for their own care at the out-of-network urgent care, to go to a different urgent care provider that’s part of the network, to go to the nearest VA medical facility or to go to the nearest emergency department. If the veteran goes to the emergency department for an urgent care-level concern though, one that’s not an emergency, the veteran will wind up with the bill.
Roseburg VA Director Keith Allen said in an interview earlier this summer that the Roseburg VA hasn’t really had a full-service emergency department for awhile and calling the ED an urgent care will be more accurate. About 89 percent of the cases seen at the VA’s emergency department were actually urgent care level concerns, Allen said.
The VA’s intensive care unit shut down in 2009, and Allen cited staffing shortages and patient safety as the reasons for completing the conversion to an urgent care this month.
Whether the VA clinic’s open or not, veterans are being advised to go directly to the nearest emergency room — Mercy Medical Center for most local veterans — if they reasonably believe their health or lives are at risk. The VA does pay for emergency care at an outside hospital for life-threatening situations.