Bureau of Primary Health Care: Reorganized!

Attendees of the 2014 CHAMPS/NWRPCA Fall Primary Care Conference were among the first to learn of some significant upcoming changes at BPHC. On Tuesday October 21, citing feedback from grantees and others, HRSA Associate Administrator Jim McRae addressed a packed plenary and described the pending reorganization. 

Under the new organizational structure, there will be five discrete offices under his Office of the Associate Administrator. These will include the Offices of Policy Development, Quality Improvement and Strategic Business Operations. In addition, eight geographically defined operating divisions will now be under North and South Offices of Health Services. 

Mr. McRae explained that increased demands, including more than 250,000 annual inquiries from grantees, legislators and the media, require some changes in how the Bureau does business. He went on to acknowledge the need to provide better support to staff, grantees and site-visit consultants. He further explained that the program had reached a point where it probably wasn’t realistic for a single person to be able to answer every single question. 

The Office of Policy Development will, among other things, allow grantees to receive answers to technical questions on topics such as Scope Changes and Sliding Fee Scale issues in “real time.”

The Office of Quality Improvement will help drive better performance inside and outside of BPHC, and will “bring together” PCA, National Cooperative Agreement and HCCN organizations. 

The Office of Strategic Business Operations will facilitate staff training, communication and development activities to ensure that BPHC has a “solid foundation” as it supports and administers the health center program. The announcement that SBO would be led by North Central Division Director Margaret Davis was met with applause, despite the fact that her promotion meant that she would no longer be directly responsible for most of the grantees in the audience. 

Comparing the new structure with the current organizational chart, the most noticeable difference is the elimination of the Office of National Assistance and Special Populations. Early in his presentation, Mr. McRae addressed this change by stating that BPHC needed a “better focus” on what they do with special populations. He later reiterated this point, stating in particular the need to “incorporate special populations across our bureau.” 

According to Mr. McRae, the changes will most likely occur at the beginning of 2015. Until that time, BPHC will operate under the current structure. 

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