Specialized Care for Female Vets May Reduce Access

The military has been trying to find the right way to provide better healthcare to women who serve, even introducing women-only clinics to provide additional support and access. Unfortunately, it appears the opposite may be occurring, as military women find seeing a doctor more difficult under the new program.

Via the Airforce Times:

The creation of health clinics specifically for female veterans at Veterans Affairs Department hospitals may be having the unintended effect of limiting women’s access to routine medical care, according to a report being prepared as part of a AmVets-sponsored symposium about problems facing new veterans.

A working group of current and former service members looking at veterans health care issues raised concerns that women may have a harder time than men being seen by their primary care physicians because of a policy that restricts women to being seen only when those physicians rotate through the women’s health clinics, said Ryan Gallucci, an AmVets’ spokesman, said.

If a female veteran’s primary care physician sees patients in the women’s clinic only one afternoon a week, which seems to be a normal rotation, that veteran could see the physician only on that one afternoon. Male veterans, however, could see that physician on any day he takes appointments, Gallucci said.

“We think having women veterans’ health clinics is a good thing, and there is a need for them, but we do not think the result should be that women are more limited than men in getting primary care appointments,” Gallucci said.

Meanwhile, a veteran’s clinic in Wisconsin is attempting to bridge that gap by hiring additional staff, as well as expanding their mental health services. From NewsTalk 550:

The Veterans Administration has hired three women providers and expanded mental health services in the year since it opened a larger community-based outreach clinic in Wausau.

The changes reflect the agency’s goal to accommodate a growing number of women veterans and more adequately treat veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues.

Recognizing that nearly one out of every seven veterans is a woman, the agency has hired three women providers.

“There’s a big push for more services,” said Sarah Parsch, an advanced practice nurse practitioner who specializes in treating women veterans. “It’s not just physical health or mental health anymore – it’s a holistic approach.”

The Wausau VA clinic recently won praise from agency officials for offering a more women-friendly environment.

“We appreciate gains in the number of providers at both the parent facility [in Tomah] and the community-based clinics who are providing comprehensive primary care to women and thus reducing the number of women veterans receiving their health care under a ‘split model’,” officials said.