Tim Leeds Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
A decision is planned by the start of next month to determine what organization will begin providing VA health services in Havre. “They are now in the process of reviewing proposals,” said Teresa Bell of Fort Harrison, public affairs officer for the VA Montana Health Care System. “Their goal is to award the contract by Aug. 1.” The contract will allow services for qualifying veterans paid for through Veterans’ Affairs to be offered in Havre. Currently, the closest clinics for qualifying veterans are in Great Falls, Glasgow and Cut Bank, with Fort Harrison, near Helena, housing the state VA hospital. Bell said she did not have a specific date when services would start in Havre. The issue was brought to the forefront last summer and fall when Havre veteran Merrill Lundman started a petition drive to bring the services to Havre. Lundman, who died Dec. 22, said it was very difficult to have to drive at least 100 miles one way to take advantage of his benefits, which he said saved him more than $13,000 a year on prescriptions alone. Lundman died barely a month before his vision met success. Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., announced on Jan. 23 that the VA had agreed to open a Havre clinic. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., said in February that he had requested the clinic be named in honor of Lundman. Representatives of Northern Montana Hospital and Bullhook Community Health Center said that both Havre health providers had put in proposals for their providing the services. Bell said she was not able to release how many or what groups had put in proposals. The original FBO solicitation for proposals listed on its Web site listed two out-of-state organizations as interested vendors as well as Bullhook and Northern Montana Hospital. Stanley Gray of S. Gray and Associates of Tampa, Fla., said in June he was interested, but the VA made it sound like he had no chance. Gray, a veteran himself, said he provides employee assistance programs and works in health care around the country, including in Montana. “(The VA) pretty well told me if you don't live Here you can submit it, but you won’t be selected ,” he said. “Where the company is headquartered doesn't matter, it’s where providers are That’s asinine.” A representative of the other interested vendor, Magnum Associates, Joint Venture, of San Antonio, Texas, did not return calls asking for comment. In the description of the operation listed in the Federal Business Opportunities Web site, the VA said the clinic would serve more than 4,300 qualifying veterans in the Havre area. The clinic will provide community- based outpatient care for qualifying veterans. The original solicitation on FBO said planned care includes primary care with diagnostic associated with that level of care, including lab, EKG, non-complex X-ray, basic wound care/ suturing, removal of benign lesions, joint injections, and/or other office procedures provided in the primary care setting. Services will include primary care with diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. Montana VA Health Care has seen several upgrades in the last few years. Last winter, it was announced that the Billings VA clinic would be expanded, and facilities have been added in Cut Bank and Lewistown. The Lewistown facility is set to open Wednesday. It was the awarding of clinics to Lewistown and Cut Bank that started Lundman’s drive last summer to push for a Havre clinic. Havre had asked to receive a clinic during the round that led to the Lewistown and Cut Bank clinics being approved, and Lundman said Havre should have been approved as well. Bell said the VA also has clinics in Bozeman, Glendive, Kalispell, Missoula and Miles City.