Gov. Patrick, Chancellor Collins announce collaboration to improve outpatient VA services

Coordination and investment by federal, state and medical school partners will improve and expand services for Central and Western Massachusetts veterans

By Mark Shelton

UMass Medical School Communications

November 12, 2014
  Mass. Secretary of Health and Human Services John Polanowicz, UMMS Chancellor Michael F. Collins, and Mass. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Coleman Nee at the announcement of a joint venture with the Veterans Administration to plan a new outpatient clinic on the UMMS campus. The announcement was made on Veterans Day at the medical school campus in Worcester.
  Mass. Secretary of Health and Human Services John Polanowicz, UMMS Chancellor Michael F. Collins, and Mass. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Coleman Nee at the announcement of a joint venture with the Veterans Administration to plan a new outpatient clinic on the UMMS campus. The announcement was made on Veterans Day at the medical school campus in Worcester.

Chancellor Michael F. Collins, joined by representatives of the Patrick administration, U.S. Rep. James McGovern, representatives of the Veterans Administration and members of the Massachusetts Legislature, announced a coordinated effort between federal and state partners and UMass Medical School to improve and expand health services for Massachusetts veterans.

As a first step of the new collaboration, the Veterans Administration Central Western Massachusetts Health Care System (VACWM) and UMMS have worked together to award a contract for a research annex for VA clinics on the UMMS campus in Worcester.

“Thanks to the successful partnership with UMMS, this annex will house our audiology, optometry and podiatry clinics, allowing us to see more veterans in these high need areas,” said John P. Collins, director of the VACWM. “This annex will allow us to expand our research program, providing our staff the unique opportunity to work closely with the amazing resources on the UMMS campus.”

Additionally, VACWM and UMMS are actively pursuing a joint venture for a Center of Excellence in Veterans’ Health Care to expand access to care for veterans and their families within the VACWM region. This joint venture will leverage VACWM and UMMS expertise to provide primary care, mental health, women’s health, pediatrics and specialty care for veterans and their families.

To accommodate the joint venture proposal, Patrick announced that the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) will relocate its District 3 headquarters from the site on Belmont Street adjacent to the UMMS campus to a nearby Plantation Parkway site controlled by UMMS.

“Massachusetts is proud to support our veterans, and this land swap agreement between MassDOT and the University of Massachusetts Medical School will pave the way for a state of the art VA facility that will provide the care our veterans deserve,” said Patrick.

The new research annex will house audiology, optometry and podiatry clinics, as well as allow expansion of research program using resources on the UMMS campus.

The VA’s current Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) on Lincoln Street in Worcester is not large enough to meet the needs of Central Massachusetts veterans. Its 25,000 square feet of clinic space can serve only about 8,000 veterans in an area where 50,000 veterans seek care. Because of this, the VA has limited specialty services, making it necessary for veterans to drive one to two hours for some of their health care needs.

The UMMS–VA joint venture proposal is to build a 100,000 square foot facility to house a new clinic to replace the current Worcester CBOC. Final review of the joint venture application is proceeding by the VA, in accordance with VA regulations.

“The members of our academic medical center feel an obligation to serve the veterans of Central Massachusetts,” said Chancellor Collins. “Our hope is that partnering with the VA will allow us to expand our capacity to provide superior patient care, innovative medical research and broad based medical education efforts.”

By integrating onsite research to spur scientific advances, the joint venture will not only benefit veterans and their families, but also foster clinical care advances that may benefit patients everywhere. And, as a model site for interprofessional training of medical students, nursing students, residents and fellows, it will prepare graduates to provide patient-centered care to veterans throughout their careers. Additionally, by allowing veterans, their spouses and their children to receive care locally at the same site, this innovative joint venture will increase utilization. 

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