Rim Country veterans can get some of their medical care close to home from Dr. Michael Lowe, with the award of a contract to provide satellite clinic services to veterans registered with the Phoenix Veterans Administration Hospital.
Dr. Lowe noted that the contract covers veterans registered in Phoenix, but not Prescott. “If the VA patients want to be seen in town, they have to be signed up with Phoenix. Prescott does not have a satellite clinic here.
“Initially I thought I could contract with both of them. From what I understand, that’s not possible.”
Each major VA hospital operates independently, with its own drug plan, own formularies and medical records system.
“While you can get into the system and look things up, it’s not a comprehensive system where you can get to all their stuff in one spot ... It’s just hard to get to. It’s a system designed by committee,” he said.
Lowe hopes to expand the services he can provide veterans, including drawing blood at his office and perhaps X-rays and possibly telemedicine, which would enable patients to talk to a counselor in Phoenix sitting in a private room at his office.
First the VA needs to bring a “T1” line in. He said as soon as it goes through all the channels, the VA will set up a direct Internet connection to the VA.
“Telemedicine has been around for a long time. One of the problems is the town doesn’t have a good, high-speed Internet provider,” he said.
The telemedicine system will benefit area veterans dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Lowe said. The system will let them talk to a counselor “face to face.”
However, it will take time to set up. “They’re running at the speed of government,” Lowe said. He is still waiting for his office to be equipped to provide all the contract services previously offered when Dr. Mark Ivey had the VA contract.
“Instead of them bringing over all the equipment from Ivey’s office to my office, they took everything back down to Phoenix,” he said.
He said the VA wants to set up a full clinic in Payson once it has enough patients.
“There needs to be about 3,000 (veterans) in the area to get one and we have only about 1,500 in town,” Lowe said.
He said he expects to convert the current month-to-month contract to a five-year agreement.
Lowe tried to explain the delay in getting the satellite clinic service changed over from Ivey’s office to his.
“Healthnet had the contract for the clinic up here (Ivey subcontracted with it). When Ivey pulled out, Healthnet needed another provider and came to me. At the same time the (Healthnet) contract (with the VA) was up for renewal and Healthnet decided not to bid on it, but didn’t tell me. The VA asked me to bid on my own. Because of the rules of the government that took until almost to Christmas before my bid was accepted and no decision was made until the end of January. It was another month or two before I was sent a kind of letter of intent. Then you have to go through the contract process and that’s where we are now. Now it’s just working its way through the system. I tried to push it for the end of last month, but when I figured out that wasn’t going to happen, I went down and hammered out an interim contract. It will be next month before that’s done. Then we can get the T1 line, which will take a few more months.”
Lowe’s office is located at 903 E. Highway 260 in Payson.