Fayetteville's Director of Veterans Affairs is still waiting on the final numbers for the next budget, but he is anticipating that it will be the same as the last couple of years - about $50 million. Preparations are already in place to absorb the increasing costs of treating more patients.
Richard Baltz says he is cutting back wherever it is possible without jeopardizing patient care, everything from getting tough on long-distance calls to not filling some staffing positions.
"We are trying to become a leaner organization with more efficiencies so that we are able to meet this demand on a straight-line budget," Baltz said.
And just like in the private sector, the Fayetteville VA is encouraging more veterans to take advantage of outpatient services. Twenty thousand more chose that option last year.
As a result, two in-patient wards were consolidated, and the resources were transferred to outpatient services.
"That cuts down tremendously on staffing, staffing for beds to watch people overnight," said head nurse Betty Johnson.
Preventive care is another way the VA is looking to save money down the road.
"We are trying to utilize the best practices out there while maintaining quality care," Baltz said. "That's the bottom line. If we can keep patients healthier through primary care, they will require less costly hospitalizations."
Due to the new Veterans Health Care reform Act, the Fayetteville VA could see up to 3,000 more veterans this year.
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