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Phoenix VA teams up with pharmacy walk-in clinics to treat patients

(KTAR Photo)

PHOENIX — A national pharmacy chain’s walk-in clinics could be part of a solution to help the Phoenix VA hospital ease long wait times for urgent care treatment.

The Department of Veterans Affairs announced a partnership Tuesday with CVS Pharmacy that will refer nearly 120,000 veterans with minor illnesses or injuries to one of 24 local MinuteClinics.

“I’ve long believed that veterans in need of routine health care services should not have to wait in line for weeks to get an appointment when they can visit community health centers like MinuteClinic to receive timely and convenient care,” veterans care advocate U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said in a press release.

The Phoenix VA was the epicenter of a nationwide scandal over inadequate care and extremely long wait times for appointments. Three years later, the hospital still has problems seeing patients in a timely fashion.

A report from the U.S. Office of Special Counsel in January listed that, on average, the Phoenix facility has 1,000 patients who wait longer than a month for appointments.

Veterans would not be bound by current restrictions under the VA’s Choice program, which limits outside care to those who have been waiting more than 30 days for an appointment or have to drive more than 40 miles to a facility.

Instead, they can call the Phoenix VA Health Care System Help Line at 602-222-6550 or 800-574-7174, and Phoenix VA nurses will be able to refer veterans to MinuteClinics for government-paid care when “clinically appropriate.”

“We believe in the MinuteClinic model of care and are excited to offer our health care services as one potential solution for the Phoenix VA Health Care System and its patients with minor illnesses and injuries,” MinuteClinic Chief Medical Officer Tobias Barker said in a press release.

For now the program is limited to the Valley, but if successful could become more widespread. VA Secretary David Shulkin has been considering an overhaul proposal aimed at reducing veterans’ wait times.

That proposal was due by fall.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.