VA unable so far to recruit full-time physician at Merril Lundman Memorial Clinic
The Veterans Administration says it has been unable so far to fill the slot for a doctor at the Havre VA clinic, but two new doctors coming on board in Billings will help provide care for local patients.
Casie Terrie of VA Healthcare Montana said Friday that the administration has been having difficulties finding doctors to practice in smaller, rural communities, including the position at the Merril Lundman Department of Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic in Havre.
“We can't hire physicians in these highly rural communities, so rather than have our veterans drive hundreds of miles, we’re bringing our physicians from larger communities to the veteran's home community via tele-video technology,” she said in an emailed response to a question from the Havre Daily News.
Casey said VA has been using telemedicine to provide service in Hamilton, as well.
Dr. Robert Henderson, who took over as the primary care physician at the clinic when it opened in 2009, transferred to the VA clinic in Great Falls last October.
Terrie said Henderson has continued to provide care in Havre via telemedicine, and a nurse practitioner also has staffed the Lundman clinic, via internet telemedicine four days a week and coming to the clinic one day a week.
The two new doctors in Billings will be providing telemedicine services to Havre as well as Glasgow, Lewistown and Plentywood, Terrie said. Once they are settled in, they also may begin traveling to Havre to provide care in person, she said.
The opening of the Havre clinic was announced just a month after one of its strongest proponents died. Veteran Merril Lundman campaigned for years to have a clinic opened in Havre, saying it would give military veterans a medical facility closer to them on the Hi-Line where they could recieve benefits.
Before the clinic opened in 2009, the closest veterans facilities were in Great Falls and Cut Bank.
The clinic was dedicated to Lundman in 2010, one year after it opened in Havre. He started a petition drive on the Hi-Line to show support and a need for the clinic.