by Justin Kree
ODESSA - The West Texas V.A. Medical Center covers 55,000 square miles. Abilene to the east, Hobbs to the northwest and Odessa to the south. Big Spring is the hub. Both the V.A. Hospital and Odessa clinic are having a doctor and staffing shortage.
"We get a lot of doctors to come in, join our staff and then they move on to bigger and better facilities. Bigger and better locations, whatever the reason may be," Iva Jo Hanslik, Community Relations Coordinator for the West Texas V.A. Health Care System, said.
Hanslik has been working with the V.A. in Big Spring for 25 years, she has seen the shortage problem before and says it all boils down to housing cost.
"Part of that attributes to the cost of living in this area right now. Many of our doctors do not purchase homes, they only rent or lease their homes," Hanslik said.
Hanslik says the new Odessa location is state of the art and it will be fully staffed very soon.
"Within the next six weeks to two months, we should have a totally full operational clinic in Odessa as well as our clinic here that are void of providers today," Hanslik said.
Doctors and staff are coming in from the Abilene clinic to assist in the shortage. Doctors can also look at patients through tele-clinical video. The doctors in Abilene can take vitals through a machine that is with the patient in Odessa. This new procedure reduces wait times significantly.
"We are working daily to reduce those wait times. We are not as bad as the numbers nationally, even though we are higher than we'd like to be," Hanslik said.
No veteran will be turned away at the Odessa clinic.
"We love our veterans and we want to provide the cure they deserve. If they aren't getting it, we want them to call us. Where there's a will, there's a way and we'll get through this," Hanslik said.