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VA clinic in Wasilla without doctors after contract physicians decided not to renew

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The Veterans Affairs clinic in Wasilla is without doctors after the three physicians working under contract over the summer decided not to renew those.

A nurse practitioner, who transferred from Anchorage last week, is now carrying the 1,000-patient caseload.

The Mat-Su Veterans Affairs Community Based Outpatient Clinic is supposed to have two full-time doctors but has been down one since 2012. The last full-time doctor left in May, KTVA reported (http://bit.ly/1rxNG8o ).

"There were three physicians at various times who had been selected to come work there and had dropped out for various reason or there were credentialing issues with them," said Cynthia Joe, chief of staff for the Alaska VA Healthcare System.

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, has expressed concern with staffing at the clinic and asked the VA's inspector general to look into the quality of care provided there.

Joe told The Associated Press earlier this summer that recruitment of doctors and nurses is one of the biggest challenges the system faces in Alaska.

"We are offering salaries that are within what we can offer through the VA," she told KTVA, noting the VA also offers incentives and cost-of-living allowances.

The offered salary in the case of the Wasilla clinic is capped at $195,000. There were no pending applicants.

The VA has referred around 700 veterans from the area to a clinic run by the Southcentral Foundation in Wasilla. Hundreds more are being seen by Providence Alaska Medical Center and private practices.

While $5 billion was included in a recent VA bill to go toward hiring more doctors, it's unclear whether any of that money will help the Wasilla clinic.

"I think we are always hopeful of anything that will give us more latitude to hire," Joe said.

The VA plans to hold a town hall to discuss veterans' issues in Anchorage on Sept. 16. As part of that, the VA said it "welcomes frank and open discussion of Veterans' concerns in all VA program areas."


Information from: KTVA-TV, http://www.ktva.com

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