Area Veterans Show Their Support for VA Outpatient Clinic in Foxburg

Paul Lieberum

On Tuesday, April 7, 2015, the VA Outpatient Clinic and ACV Medical Center in Foxburg became the focal point of many area Veterans who are disappointed with the news that the VA Butler Healthcare wants to move the clinic elsewhere in the county.

(Photo right: Paul Lieberum addresses the Veterans who attended the rally at the ACV Medical Center / VA Outpatient Clinic in Foxburg, on Tuesday, April 7, 2015.)

The invasion at the VA Outpatient Clinic and ACV Medical Center was organized to update the concerned Veterans and citizens of events and details of the VA’s contract and provide a petition to sign as a show of their support to Clarion Hospital and the Allegheny-Clarion Valley Development Corp. This is a grassroots effort to change the minds of the VA Butler Healthcare administrators to keep the clinic in Foxburg and reconsider Clarion Health Systems’ bid for the new 5-year contract.

Leading the gathering was Walt Frint, executive director of the ACV Dev. Corp. Frint said, “We built, own and maintain this building. Clarion Hospital provides the staff and all the services that the VA Butler Healthcare requires of them”. Frint continued, “Every 5 years the contract for healthcare services at VA clinics goes out for open bidding by all interested parties. The contract for this clinic and two others in western Pa. went out for bid in July 2014. Clarion Hospital submitted their proposal to secure another 5 year contract for the Foxburg clinic under VA’s open bid period. In January, they received a letter stating they had been removed from competition and could not submit any revisions to their proposal”. After Frint did some investigating on the situation, the VA couldn’t provide any viable reason for their decision or information was withheld completely.

Since word of the situation has been made public, many Veterans and concerned citizens have sent letters to their state and federal elected officials expressing their displeasure of the VA’s decisions.

Retired Air Force Master Sergeant Paul Lieberum addressed the group encouraging fellow Veterans to support the Clarion Hospital and the ACV Development Corp. in their quest to keep the clinic in Foxburg and with Clarion Hospital as the provider.

Byron Quinton, Chief Executive Officer of Clarion Hospital said they had received a letter from the Butler VA, giving the hospital a one week window to respond to deficiencies in their recent bid proposal, to which they will respond. He exclaimed, “It appears that there is a glimmer of hope”. He also commented that the clinic has been running well and complimen-ted the staff and Dr. Joe Leonard. According to a hospital spokesperson, “these deficiencies were never in any correspondence or discussions with Butler VA”.

Dr. Leonard then added that they strive to do their best and he believed that a change wouldn’t make things better. Dr. Leonard, expressed his gratitude to be able to provide health care to the Veterans. He said it was his way of saying, thank you for serving our country, and he was honored to be a part of the VA Outpatient Clinic in Foxburg. Applause and “thank you” were spontaneously given to the Dr. and staff for their service to both Veterans and the local community.

State Senator Scott Hutchinson greeted everyone and vowed his support. He noted past process problems with the VA in other contract procedures. Hutchinson wants to see the clinic remain in Foxburg, as there is much satisfaction by the Veterans in the quality of care, service, location, and there is a great relationship with the Clarion Hospital. Hutchinson plans to be involved to the end. Many of the Veterans thanked Senator Hutchinson for his support.

At one point in the gathering Frint motioned to the Butler VA representative, Ken Kalberer, who was present, to give him an opportunity to speak, but declined the opportunity. Later in the week, Kalberer, spoke to The Progress News editor Dave Staab, and said that with an open and active procurement, “contract”, he would not be permitted to comment. However, he did say that the VA is always concerned about what their Veterans and families have to say, and that is why he was present at the gathering. With Clarion Health Systems working on the revised bid, there hasn’t been time to evaluate their proposal, and a final determination has not been made. In regards to the location of the VA Outpatient Clinic, that too is under review. The VA’s interest is in giving our Veterans the best possible care and facilities that they can provide. Kalberer commented, “As you know, there is a distinct possibility that the clinic could be relocated, yet at the same time it’s possible that it would remain in Foxburg.” He added, “The final location of the Community Based Outpatient Clinic will be the location proposed by the awarded contractor”. He also noted that until the new contract is awarded, Veterans will continue to receive uninterrupted care and there will be seamless continuity of care during any transition.

At the conclusion of the rally a few questions were asked and answered by Walt Frint, who encouraged everyone to write to their elected officials. He also explained their interest in securing a Federal Injunction against the VA’s actions in the bid process. Of special concern in the bid package was that the awardee was to have the clinic opened within 90 days of the award and the ‘openness’ of the bid process. The injunction would halt the VA’s plans until a thorough review of their handling of this matter has been completed. Frint promised that information would be given to the local papers as things progress and develop to keep everyone updated.

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