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Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Denise Deitzen, director at the VA Medical Center, left, listens to Dr. Ajay Dhawan, chief of staff, answer questions Friday.

VA, Parkview plan mental health clinic

– The Fort Wayne VA Medical Center will open a new outpatient clinic in partnership with Parkview Health to treat people with mental health issues.

At a news conference Friday, VA officials confirmed that a 27,000-square-foot building at 2500 E. State Blvd. would be leased for administrative offices and for outpatient purposes.

The building formerly housed Parkview’s Comprehensive Cancer Center, which has relocated to the Parkview Regional Medical Center campus off Dupont Road, Parkview Health spokesman Eric Clabaugh said.

The clinic will include space for 97 staff members in mental health and administration and a parking lot with 165 spaces. It is expected to open in spring 2015, said Denise Deitzen, director of the VA Medical Center.

The number of patients being seen has increased by 3 percent to 5 percent every year for the past several years, Deitzen said.

Many patients have mental health issues who are in need of acute care.

“One in five of the patients we see have issues related to mental health,” said Dr. Ajay Dhawan, the VA Center’s chief of staff.

The VA temporarily suspended inpatient care in October and began referring patients to other hospitals inside and outside the VA system. Center officials maintain that they were improving processes and patient care and providing training to its staff.

During the four-month period the center offered no inpatient care, they sent about 400 patients elsewhere for treatment, Deitzen said, including Lutheran Health Systems, Parkview Health and other partners of the VA.

It’s not unusual to temporarily suspend services, she said, but the amount of attention the center received after doing so was unusual.

Six new hospital beds have reopened at the VA Medical Center, the start of the second phase of a program to resume inpatient care there.

The new beds, inpatient clinic and other improvements are the result of an internal review that showed that the center “had room for improvement,” Deitzen said.

Dhawan said the VA Center will continue to “begin integrating patients with more complex conditions” and open inpatient beds incrementally until all 26 are in service by the end of the month.

“We see about 40,000 different patients a year for primary care,” Dhawan said.

Dhawan acknowledged vacancies in some administrative positions at the Lake Avenue complex but said they are working hard to fill those positions.

The VA recently hired a chief of medicine and an assistant chief of primary care and expect to fill two more administrative positions before the end of the month, he said.

The administration has been working very diligently with the staff to find a better process and make improvements, said Audrey Frison, associate director of Patient Care Services.

“They (staff) have been very actively engaged in the changes,” Frison said. “They are excited to be part of this.”

vsade@jg.net

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