Though it denied it was planning to do so last month, the Northeast Ohio VA announced Monday that it will close its outpatient clinic at the Thomas F. McCafferty Health Center on Lorain Avenue in Ohio City and will move all operations to its Parma location.
Scene had heard rumors from medical providers that, unrelated to the COVID-19 outbreak, the VA planned to close its clinic on the near west side last month. This was thought to be due, in part, to a dwindling patient base. The VA says that it now serves 1,993 patients at McCafferty, down from more than 3,000 patients a decade ago.
But when Scene asked the VA about its decision to close the clinic in March, a spokesperson wrote as follows, by email:
"There has been no such decision. VA Northeast Ohio Healthcare System continually monitors usage at all of its clinics in order to ensure staff and resources are properly allocated and used effectively."
At some point since, the decision was officially
made, evidently. The Parma location, on Brookpark Road, is roughly seven miles from McCafferty. It serves more than 32,000 patients annually, per the VA.
In a press statement Monday, the VA said current McCafferty patients will have the option to keep their current primary care provider at the Parma clinic or change to any of the VA’s 13 other locations in the region — accessible locations for inner city Clevelanders like Lake County, Lorain County, Akron, Canton, East Liverpool, New Philadelphia, Mansfield, Ravenna, Sandusky, Warren and Youngstown.
Doctors at McCafferty had been aware of the impending closure, but were restricted from speaking publicly about it. Privately, one of their chief concerns was transit access.
Many of McCafferty's patients are low-income residents of the city of Cleveland who access the facility by the #22 bus. To access the Parma facility by public transit, at least from McCafferty, patients would have to take the #22 to W. 25th Street, then take the #51 South to Brookpark Road, then take the #54 West to the VA Clinic, a trip that can take upwards of an hour. (The #79 Southbound down Fulton and through Old Brooklyn is also an option, but that trip includes more than 20 minutes of walking, not always an option for elderly veterans with mobility issues.)
When Scene asked the VA about concerns related to transit access, we received the statement above. In the release Monday, local VA CEO Jill Dietrich said Parma was a "more robust facility" and "only seven miles away."
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