The Fresno veterans hospital still is hiring doctors and nurses because veterans hospitals have a waiver from a federal hiring freeze imposed by President Donald Trump.
Veterans hospitals across the country have struggled to hire doctors and have come under fire for long wait times for medical appointments. The possibility of a slowdown in hiring doctors did not sit well with veterans organizations.
When the president issued the hiring ban Jan. 23, the Department of Veterans Affairs asked for and was granted permission to continue hiring people for patient care, said Stephen R. Bauman, medical center director in Fresno.
“We didn’t stop recruitment,” Bauman said.
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The exemption from the hiring freeze allows the VA Central California Health Care System to fill 35 patient-care vacancies, including seven doctor openings, he said.
We didn’t stop recruitment.
Stephen R. Bauman, VA medical center director in Fresno
The Fresno-based veterans health system operates a 57-bed hospital at Clinton Avenue and Fresno Street and has clinics in Oakhurst, Tulare and Merced. It serves more than 28,000 veterans in six counties and has 40,000 veterans who are enrolled and eligible for services.
Bauman is pleased with the choice of David Shulkin, Trump’s nominee to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs. Shulkin has been undersecretary of health since 2015.
Shulkin, who appeared to sail through a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing Wednesday, would be the first doctor to head the department. “He’s not a veteran, but I’m not concerned about that because he is so dedicated to the veterans,” Bauman said
For the VA health system in Fresno, Bauman said he has several goals as he begins his second year at the hospital. High on the list are maintaining quick turnaround times for primary care appointments and shortening wait times for non-urgent appointments with specialists. He also wants to expand the hospital’s research programs, which he said will help in the recruitment and retention of doctors.
Patients and employees will be happy to hear that improving parking for the hospital is a priority.
“Sometimes you can spend 20 minutes looking for a parking spot,” said John “Top” Schuler, vice president of Central Valley Veterans, a nonprofit organization that helps veterans with housing, utility bills, car repairs and other needs.
The VA bought 9 acres for parking at Armstrong and Herndon avenues in Clovis. Patients and employees will be shuttled between the lot and the hospital, Bauman said. And there are plans for a parking garage near the hospital.