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VA at Ft Harrison

The VA Medical Center and Outpatient Clinic at Fort Harrison is pictured in this file photo from 2014. 

Eliza Wiley, Independent Record

Though the Montana VA Health Care System has a shortage of primary care providers both in Helena and statewide, Director Kathy Berger says veterans will continue to receive the care they need.

“There is a nationwide shortage of primary care providers and in rural states like Montana the shortage can be even more significant,” Berger said in a press release. “Although primary care provider staffing is always fluid, I am confident that we have what we need to serve our Veterans through direct care, telehealth, or community care at all of our locations.”

The Montana VA Health Care System had 34.45 full-time equivalent provider positions filled as of Feb. 9, and 37.1 are required. The providers that hold 5.5 of those positions had given notice that they will be leaving or reducing their hours, and 8.5 are scheduled to be filled between March 5 and the end of May.

In Helena, the VA Medical Center at Fort Harrison had 4.85 full-time equivalent provider positions filled as of Feb. 9, and six are required. The positions in Helena are currently filled by three full-time providers, one temporary telehealth provider and two part-time providers. 

The VA is recruiting providers for its facilities in Helena and Billings, as each has one full-time provider vacancy without anyone to fill it. 

Telehealth providers, other sites and temporary substitutes are helping to fill any potential gaps in coverage, the VA said.

“The reports of widespread unavailability of primary care in the Montana VA are false,” the release says.

The Montana VA Health Care System has 15 sites that offer primary care. They are located in Helena, Billings, Kalispell, Missoula, Hamilton, Anaconda, Cut Bank, Havre, Great Falls, Bozeman, Lewistown, Glasgow, Plentywood, Glendive and Miles City.

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