VA chief to recommend hospital closures and expansions in restructuring of largest healthcare system

Published by Lisa Rein

(Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)


Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough on Monday will recommend closing hospitals and outpatient clinics from Massachusetts to South Dakota in the biggest effort to reconfigure the country’s largest health-care system since it was created after World War I. The proposal calls for closing three major VA hospitals, McDonough said this week. While he did not offer details, the sites are in Brooklyn; Northampton, Mass.; and Chillicothe, Ohio, according to congressional aides and published reports.

In addition, 174 outpatient clinics would close, according to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, which was briefed on the plan. But VA would replace some of the shuttered facilities with 140 clinics offering specialty care, two dozen nursing homes and about a dozen residential facilities specializing in substance abuse issues. The effort aims to address a massive shift in the population of veterans from the Northeast, Midwest and parts of the rural West into warmer locales in the Sun Belt and Southwest. It also is meant to advance a realignment long sought by some VA leaders and conservatives that would dramatically reshape a health-care system that serves 9 million veterans but has failed to modernize alongside its private-sector counterparts. But the plan also is expected to set off a politically explosive battle over which of the closures are ultimately approved and where expansions are allowed, akin to fights over military base closures in the 1990s that devolved into power skirmishes. Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.) organized a rally Sunday in front of the Brooklyn medical center, which under the plan would consolidate services with the Manhattan hospital and eventually contract with private providers, the congresswoman’s office said.

South Dakota’s Republican congressional delegation promised a fight to save three sparsely used clinics that, if the plan is approved, would close or have services reduced. “I’ll fight like hell to make sure veterans in South Dakota receive the care they’ve earned,” Sen. Mike Rounds said in a statement issued with two other South Dakota Republicans, Sen. John Thune and Rep. Dusty Johnson. Former VA secretary Bob McDonald had moved to close one of the clinics, in Hot Springs, but the Trump administration rescinded the decision....


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