By Michael Hill
It’s a bold move by Cooper University Health Care.
“We have a big organization here. We provide health care to thousands and thousands of patients every day and we want to open our doors to our veterans,” said Cooper University Hospital President and CEO Adrienne Kirby.
While Congress considers how to improve veterans’ health care and access to it, Cooper will launch its “Veterans VIP Priority” program July 1.
“I think the biggest difference is going to be that they’re going to able to get care in a more timely fashion,” Kirby said.
In seven South Jersey counties, Cooper has seven primary care facilities that already treat some veterans who don’t have VA insurance. But now all vets will go into the VIP program and have a vets-only phone line they can call, a nurse navigator to coordinate and consolidate their care and access to same-day appointments.
“That’s going to lead to more rapid more and appropriate ongoing care. So, it’s earlier diagnosis of diseases, earlier treatment of disorders, the ability to start the care plan process faster and that always leads to better care,” Kirby said.
This is Cooper’s response to the national Veterans Administration Hospital’s scandal that exposed improper, delayed and even deadly care of veterans.
Cooper says it will provide full care — except for transplants and burns — for vets regardless of their health insurance status or whether the government will reimburse Cooper.
“But again we just don’t think it’s the thing that should stop us from giving care to this deserving population,” Kirby said.
Retired Special Forces soldier Aric Gray is a veteran of both Iraq conflicts and more. He says too often the VA is too big give vets what they need.
“Now that a civilian hospital, private hospital is basically taking this on, it basically gives that ownership and everybody feels like something is being gained out of it,” Gray said.
Ted Gallagher fought in Vietnam and says this serves as a model.
“I think this is the way to go because it’s going to increase the opportunities they have to receive care,” he said.
“We’re doing it because we do believe it’s the right thing to do,” said Kirby.
Cooper University Health Care took on this initiative knowing full well that it could inspire the rest of the medical industry to care for veterans. And that’s exactly what has happened. Cooper says two other medical institutions have called to find out about this initiative.