VISN 8 takes on Transformative Pilot Program, Announces Leadership Changes at Medical Centers - Bay Pines VA Healthcare System
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Bay Pines VA Healthcare System

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VISN 8 takes on Transformative Pilot Program, Announces Leadership Changes at Medical Centers

August 31, 2018

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                 
Contact:  Mary Kay Rutan, VISN 8 Communication Manager
(desk) 386-754-6303; (cell) 352-225-1246;


The VA Sunshine Healthcare Network (VISN 8) has been selected to roll out a new clinical contact center pilot program intended to improve access to health care services for Veterans, improve care continuity, and advance care coordination between VA healthcare facilities within the network.

The concept for the new program calls for a 24/7 call center, or centralized hub, that will effectively integrate healthcare access across VISN 8, providing a one-stop-shop for customer service, including first contact resolution, scheduling and clinical capabilities.  The pilot program is expected to be under development for the next 12-18 months with roll-out in late 2019. 

“VISN 8 is at the forefront of a Veteran-centric innovation that we believe will truly transform the way we deliver care to America’s heroes,” said Dr. Miguel LaPuz, VISN 8 Network Director.  “We are very fortunate to have a connected and team-oriented network of medical centers and leaders who recognize the importance of the clinical contact center pilot program and the difference it can make in the way we care for Veterans within VISN 8 and across the country.”

VISN 8 announces the following leadership changes to support the pilot program and organizational needs:  

  • Suzanne M. Klinker, Director, Bay Pines VA Healthcare System, has been appointed as the VISN 8 Deputy Network Director.  As such, she will serve as the Executive-in-Charge of the new clinical contact center initiative. She will lead the development and implementation of the new pilot program as well as VISN-wide employee training and education initiatives focused on improving the employee and Veteran experience. Klinker will depart Bay Pines after serving as the director for the last six years.
  • Paul M. Russo, Director, Miami VA Healthcare System, will transition and assume directorship at Bay Pines. Like Klinker, Russo has held the top post in Miami for the last 6 years. 
  • Kalautie S. JangDhari, Director, West Texas VA Health Care System, will assume acting directorship at Miami until a permanent replacement is on board.

These appointments are effective September 16, 2018.

“It is our goal to bring this new program to fruition, improve health care delivery and Veteran experience, and optimize clinical and administrative resources needed to deliver the quality health care services Veterans have earned and deserve. I am confident that we will have the right leaders in place to make that happen,” he said.

About the VA Sunshine Healthcare Network (VISN 8)
VISN 8 is the nation’s largest system of hospitals and clinics serving a population of more than 1.5 million Veterans in 79 counties in Florida, South Georgia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The network’s seven healthcare systems include eight Joint Commission-accredited VA medical centers and more than 60 large and small outpatient clinics. Nearly 29,000 full-time employees work at these facilities, providing a full range of high quality, cost-effective medical, psychiatric and extended care services in inpatient, outpatient, nursing home, and home care settings. In 2017, VISN 8 treated 598,712 Veterans and completed 8.6 million outpatient visits.     

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