More NWI hospitals treat veterans closer to home - November 4, 2015

Courtesy of NWI Times

November 04, 2015 6:00 pm • Giles Bruce giles.bruce@nwi.com, (219) 853-2584

Methodist Hospitals recently became the latest Northwest Indiana hospital system to participate in a program to treat veterans closer to home.

Under the Veterans Choice program, military vets who live farther than 40 miles from a Veterans Affairs facility or have to wait 30 days or longer for an appointment can instead seek medical care from a local provider.

“We are grateful that we can care for more of those individuals who served our country,” Methodist CEO Ray Grady said in a statement.

The Veterans Choice program, which went into effect last year, tried to alleviate long trips, wait times and a lack of specialists for veterans seeking medical care. However, many veterans from Northwest Indiana still have to travel to a VA hospital in Chicago because it’s considered within that 40-mile trip.

U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Ind., and U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, both Indiana Democrats, have encouraged the VA to consider traffic congestion and travel to and from public transit stops rather than just driving distance.

But veterans who do qualify now have more options in Northwest Indiana.

Community Healthcare System, which includes Community Hospital in Munster, St. Catherine Hospital in East Chicago and St. Mary Medical in Hobart, along with Porter Healthcare System — Porter Regional Hospital in Valparaiso and Portage Hospital — are also part of the program. Methodist has campuses in Gary and Merrillville.

Matt Doyle, chief financial officer for Methodist Hospitals, said Methodist decided to join after several local veterans inquired about the program.