Business Q & A

5 questions with Kevin Inkley

Kevin Inkley has spent most of his career in the Veterans Affairs medical system – a path he didn’t think he’d take.

“When I first got in, I thought I’ll be out of here in two years,” said Inkley, associate director of the Kansas City VA Medical Center and for the next 120 to 240 days, interim medical center director for the Robert J. Dole VA Medical Center in Wichita.

As interim director, Inkley will likely oversee the transition of the local VA medical center to a new permanent director, a position that has been vacant since May.

Inkley brings a clinical background to his work as an administrator. He’s been in the VA system for 25 years, 20 of those in St. Louis in various positions. Prior to working for the VA, he spent 14 years in the private sector, starting as a respiratory therapist and ending as a division manager for a 500-bed community hospital.

He became the associate director for the Kansas City VA Medical Center in 2010 and holds a master’s degree in health care management from Webster University in St. Louis.

Q. What drew you to work in the VA system?

A. I was in the private sector, and I was in middle management, and in the mid-’80s, they laid off all the middle managers. There really wasn’t anything in the private sector at that point and somebody said, “You know, there’s an opening at the VA.” At that time, the VA wasn’t thought of very highly. … At that point in time, we didn’t have a lot of money to support (veterans), but the mission was strong. As the funding improved, it became even better because we were able to provide the services that veterans actually need.

Q. What are some of your goals for the Wichita VA medical center?

A. What I want to do is make sure we get a solid foundation organizationally and financially in Wichita before the new director comes on. That’s not saying there’s issues here organizationally or financially, I just want to make sure they’re solid. This is a great facility and staff, so it’s easier for me to work here. We also have the Joint Commission coming in 2013, so we want to make sure we’re well prepared for that visit.

Q. What’s the future of VA medical system as a whole?

A. It comes up now nearly every month – the role of the VA relative to the Affordable Care Act. How we interact with the Affordable Care Act is going to be interesting, how we interact with the insurance (exchanges) that are going to be implemented either federally or through the states. We don’t really know yet and won’t until it’s actually implemented. One of the issues we have in the VA is we take care of the veteran, we don’t take care of his family. So we’ve talked for years about what we can do to take care of the veteran and his family, so he doesn’t have to provide two levels of insurance. I’m not sure how that’s going to work. A lot of unknowns.

Q. What are going to be the biggest challenges?

A. It’s monetary and it’s access. … You’re always going to have funding issues. … We’ve dealt with those for years, so it’s nothing new. We’ve been funded well the last few years. We are blessed in that we weren’t among the agencies listed on the fiscal cliff cutbacks.

Q. What’s next for the local VA medical center?

A. We’re trying to expand services in the Wichita area so patients don’t have to travel to Topeka or Leavenworth or Kansas City. We’re expanding orthopedic surgery. … We’re getting another interventional radiologist.

We’re trying to provide the services to the veterans where they live, so they don’t have to travel for services. Their satisfaction will be higher.