Carlos R. Escobar, executive director of the Veterans Administration Caribbean Healthcare System, welcomed U.S. Virgin Islands Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. and his staff to the VA Medical Center in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Aug. 6, to further develop an alliance with the U.S. territory authorities.
“We are excited about the opportunities to continue improving the model of health care provided to veterans in the region in close collaboration with the USVI government,” said Escobar during his welcoming remarks.
Also participating in the encounter were Dr. George Velez, VACHS deputy director; Dr. William Acevedo, VACHS chief of staff; Dr. Carmen Lozada-Alemán, VACHS associate chief of staff for geriatrics and the extended care unit; Patrick Farrell, state director of Veterans Affairs; and Justa E. Encarnacion, V.I. health commissioner and chief public health officer.
Meanwhile, Dr. Luis Amaro, chief executive officer of USVI Schneider Regional Medical Center and Dyma B. Williams, interim chief executive officer of the Governor Juan F. Luis Hospital and Medical Center, participated at the meeting virtually.
“For the majority of our veterans in the territory, the VA hospital is their primary healthcare provider, so making sure that they have seamless access to that care is a priority for me as governor,” said Bryan.
During the encounter, Escobar personally informed Bryan about the recent approval of an Air Charter contract that will provide recurring roundtrip air transportation services to eligible veterans from the USVI to Puerto Rico. The first flight is scheduled for next week.
“This flight is a clear indicator of our commitment to our USVI veterans and how we want to continue developing creative solutions to facilitate equal access to care to our veterans,” said Escobar.
Another new initiative discussed was the expansion to the USVI of the Home-Based Primary Care program. The program is for veterans who need team-based, in-home support for ongoing diseases and illnesses that affect their health and daily activities.
“By creating an effective alliance with the USVI healthcare community and enabling HBPC services, the VACHS will effectively change the model of care to our veterans. This is a personal commitment, and I take it very seriously,” said Escobar.
Bryan was very pleased to hear the information about the new services that will be available to the USVI veterans.
“The discussion with Escobar and his team was very informative, and I look forward to the continued collaboration between the VA and our healthcare community in the USVI to improve the healthcare experience for our veterans and their families,” said Bryan.
Escobar also announced the addition of a VA Patient Representative who will be stationed locally but will report directly to the executive director of the VA Caribbean Healthcare System.
Veterans can continue to get up-to-date information on the Office of Veterans Affairs website at www.veterans.vi.gov or calling the office at 774-8387 or by texting the word VIVets (no spaces) to 888-652-8387.
At the end of the meeting, the group toured the VACHS facilities.
With an operational budget of approximately $600 million, the VACHS is a system of care for veterans, consisting of a tertiary care medical center located in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and 10 outpatient clinics located throughout Puerto Rico (Arecibo, Ceiba, Comerio, Guayama Mayaguez, Ponce, Utuado, Vieques) and the USVI (St. Croix, St. Thomas).