DOLE DEMANDS ANSWERS FROM VA SECRETARY ON HEFNER VA MEDICAL CENTER
Today U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole wrote to Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary James Peake, expressing her concern and asking questions about the recent decision to eliminate emergency and in-patient surgical care at the Hefner VA Medical Center in Salisbury, N.C. Dole's staff was briefed yesterday by the VA, in response to Dole's earlier request for more details about the decision.
"I understand and welcome the need for increasing mental health and long-term care services for veterans of all generations, but doing so by eliminating critical services, such as emergency and in-patient surgical care, at Salisbury troubles me," wrote Dole. "Can the VA assure veterans that non-VA medical centers will provide the first-rate care they rightly have come to expect? Will receiving care from non-VA medical centers alter, to any extent, out-of-pocket expenses or upfront money required of veterans?"
Dole also questioned the effects of the proposed changes on the staff at Hefner VAMC, and urged the VA to ease the burden of any changes to the greatest extent possible.
The VA recently announced that it will transition the Hefner VA Medical Center in Salisbury to a Clinical Center of Excellence for Mental Health and Long-Term Care. According to the VA, demographic trends indicate that veterans of all generations in the region increasingly require mental health care and that current mental health care capacity is inadequate. The VA plans to spend $121 million between fiscal years 2009 and 2013 renovating and expanding facilities at Salisbury.
In connection with this transition, the VA announced that it would eliminate emergency services and in-patient surgical care at the Salisbury VAMC, forcing local veterans to seek those services from other regional hospitals.