VA Central Western Massachusetts director says 'modest improvements' made in wait times for primary care appointments

NORTHAMPTON - The VA Central Western Massachusetts Health Care System has lessened the waiting time for new patient appointments with primary care physicians, according to John P. Collins, who is approaching his year anniversary as director of the Leeds-based system.

The system essentially delivers primary care through its network of clinics. Its hospital complex, which includes a nursing home, does as well, but is residential only for behavioral health care. Most specialty care is referred to other VA facilities, or to non-VA medical professionals contracted to provide such care.

Collins, retired U.S. Army colonel who was chief of military health care in Europe, said he hoped to expand on what he called "modest improvements" in wait times by expanding contracts with non-VA medical professionals through funds expected to become available for this purpose.

Collins and members of his staff discussed what the system, which employs about 835 people, serves more than 25,000 veterans and has an annual operating budget of $163 million, has accomplished in the wake of reforms passed by Congress last summer and being implemented by the new Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald.

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