MANCHESTER, NH – Gov. Chris Sununu on Monday signed an executive order that allows physicians at Manchester’s Veterans Affairs Medical Center to provide medical care to VA patients at any of New Hampshire’s community hospitals.
The order, which is effective for the next 240 days, will fast-track NH licenses for out-of-state physicians and physicians assistants. It was signed to help bridge a gap in services created at the Manchester VA after a burst pipe caused flooding, and disrupted routine services to patients.
Catholic Medical Center is the first provider to partner with the VA on this initiative.
The state licensing process normally takes about two months. With the executive order in place, it will now take only about two weeks, said Dr. Joseph Pepe, CEO and President of Catholic Medical Center.
Using the power of executive order was the quickest way to solve “a technical glitch,” Sununu said, which was brought to his attention last week by Al Montoya, Acting Director for the Manchester VA.
Catholic Medical Center had offered to provide necessary services, which have been interrupted at the VA due to needed repairs. However, in the process of finalizing that partnership, it was discovered that many physicians and physicians assistants who provide care for veterans through the VA are licensed out of state. In order for them to be able to provide care at a private hospital, like CMC, they were required to obtain NH licenses.
Sununu explained that because the VA is a federal facility, practitioners can be licensed in any state.
“When Al called me on Friday and made me aware that there was not only a technical glitch, but a serious concern in the system, that many of the VA physicians and medical assistants may not necessarily be licensed within the state of New Hampshire, it threatened the ability of the VA to partner with Catholic Medical to provide some serious and much-needed procedures,” Sununu said.
The executive order was issued with the support of the NH Board of Medicine and the Attorney General’s office, Sununu said.
“This allows us to use some of the services we were not able to do at the VA because of the flooding,” Montoya said.
He used endoscopy as an example of the kind of service that can be performed at CMC for veterans now, instead of at the VA.
“We have four providers for endoscopy, two of which don’t have New Hampshire licenses. This allows us to do that a little bit quicker. Once we see that it’s successful for smaller procedures, we want to branch out to other services – anything we’d normally do at the Manchester VA,” Montoya said.
The executive order applies to all New Hampshire medical facilities. Montoya said he has a meeting scheduled with the CEOs of the NH Hospital Association to see what can be done to bring care closer to where veterans live, going forward.
“This public/private partnership could apply to many facilities. One of the most frequent complaints we hear is that veterans have to drive down a great distance to get to Manchester,” Montoya said.
The VA will be seeking partnerships with other hospitals while the Manchester hospital is repaired.
“This is a collaboration to solve an issue, and there’s no bigger issue than the health of our veterans,” Pepe said.
Although Montoya did not know off hand the exact number of physicians and physicians assistants currently working for the VA without New Hampshire licenses, he noted that there are about 100 medical providers among their staff of 800, who served the state’s 25,000 veterans.
“The state of New Hampshire is committed to delivering results for New Hampshire’s veterans,” said Sununu. “This executive order provides for a continuum of services for our veterans, and we will stop at nothing to deliver the best care. Period.”
The executive order is posted below: