Published On: Wed, Oct 10th, 2012

Cherokee Indian Hospital improving health access for veterans

In 2004, the Cherokee Indian Hospital and the Charles George Veterans Administration Medical Center formed a partnership and sharing agreement with the goal to improve access to health care and services for veterans of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

Everett “Ed” Cucumber (front), an HBPC patient, is shown with Kevin Core, HBPC Social Worker; Penny James, HBPC Program Coordinator; and Dr. Billie Shepherd, HBPC Medical Director. (Photo by Jay Coble)

Home Based Primary Care is a program of the Charles George VA Medical Center in Asheville, NC for Veterans.  The Home Based Primary Care (HBPC) provides monitoring of medical needs, routine health assessments, coordination of care, and prevention or early detection of worsening conditions. HBPC serves as the primary care provider for veterans with complex chronic diseases in their homes.  In other words, instead of the Veteran having to see the doctor at the hospital or clinic, the “doctor” or primary care provider comes to the Veteran’s home to provide medical care.

The program uses a health care team who work together to create a plan of care specific to each Veteran.  The team is made up of a nurse practitioner, registered nurse, rehabilitation therapist, social worker, dietitian, psychologist, and a pharmacist, and is under the direction of a physician.

The goal of this program is to help improve their quality of life and restore health to the Veteran. It works to reduce emergency department visits, hospital admissions, and the length of stay in the hospital. Another goal is to provide support for caregivers who choose to keep their loved one at home.

The goal for many elderly Veterans is to remain at home for as long as possible.  For example, Everett “Ed” Cucumber, is an 80 year old Cherokee male that has multiple chronic illnesses that make it difficult for him to receive his medical care in the community.

Cucumber was referred to the Home Based Primary Care Program by his nephew who learned about the HBPC program at a Veteran service organization meeting.  Cucumber enrolled in HBPC more than two years ago after a lengthy hospital stay. The HBPC program has provided much needed medical equipment for him such as a motorized scooter, hospital bed, etc., which has allowed him to live as independently as possible in his own home.

Cucumber looks forward to the regularly scheduled home visits by HBPC team members who provide ongoing medical monitoring.  When asked about the HBPC program, he smiled broadly and said, “Yes, I like it…they are really good to me.”

Also, HBPC is able to provide some of the latest, most innovative assistive technology devices available, along with nursing services, social work, and nutritional support. Moreover, HBPC staff can assist Veterans to obtain home modification grants to build handicapped accessible bathrooms, widen door entrances, etc. The VA Medical Center also provides in-home assistance, which helps with bathing and other personal care. This type of support allows the veteran to remain at home with his family.

The Home Based Primary Care has office space provided by Cherokee Indian Hospital and is available in this area to provide services to Veterans.

If you would like more information about the Home Based Primary Care program for you or for a veteran you know, please contact Penny James at (828) 231-8679.

– Cherokee Indian Hospital 

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