COATESVILLE — The Veterans Affairs Department this week recommended closing 17 of its 171 medical centers, among them the Coatesville Veterans Administration Center in Caln Township. The recommendation is the first step in an asset and infrastructure review required by Congress in the Mission Act of 2018. It sets the VA’s vision for future health care delivery to more than 12 million veterans in the next 50 years.
VA officials cited a declining population, demographic changes, aging conditions of some facilities and difficulty in recruiting to justify its proposed closures.
Under the nearly $2 trillion proposal released this week, the Veterans Affairs Department would lose a net of three medical centers and 174 outpatient health clinics but would gain 255 health care facilities, including new clinics, stand-alone rehabilitation centers and nursing homes.
The Coatesville VA has 302 operating beds and more than 1,300 employees, one of the largest employers in the region. It provides a wide range of health care services to more than 19,000 veterans in Pennsylvania and Delaware.
“The goal is for veterans to have convenient access to a health care network with the right facilities, in the right places, that provides the right care for veterans in every part of the country,” said Kirk Fernitz, director of Community and Congressional Affairs at the Coatesville VA. “There will be changes in markets across the country, but VA is not leaving any market. Between outpatient care, strategic collaborations, and referrals to the community, VA will continue to deliver timely access to world-class care to every veteran.”
The shuttering of 171 medical centers represents about 21 percent of the VAs more than 800 outpatient clinics. However, the move would partly offset the closures by increasing its specialty clinics to 388, or 56 percent, and increasing reliance on private sector providers.
Fernitz said there would be no immediate changes at the Coatesville VA.
“If the recommendations are approved in 2023, the VA must then begin implementation of plans within three years,” he said. “During the implementation, the VA would develop a process for prioritization and funding of projects.”
Under the plan, 17 medical centers in 12 states would close, 18 in 16 states would be completely replaced, and 13 new centers would be built in 11 states.
The report recommends deactivating the Coatesville VA Medical Center and establishing two new sites within our market, a new medical center in the King of Prussia area and establishing a Chester County medical specialty Outpatient Clinic.
The report includes the recommendation of constructing new or modernizing existing VA health care facilities, realignments, and expanding VA partnerships. The report will also include the recommendation to close or relocate aged and underused medical facilities. The Air Commission has until Jan. 31, 2023, to review the Secretary’s recommendation and will throughout 2022, hold public hearings, visit VA facilities, and meet with employees/veterans. The AIR Commission will then forward their recommendations to President Biden, who will determine whether or not to submit those recommendations to Congress.
“We’ve spent the last several weeks and months communicating about this with VA employees, union partners, state partners, veteran service organizations, Congress, and more,” said VA Secretary Denis McDonough. “I’m continuing to consult with our unions, and will do so moving forward, because I so appreciate the strong partnership we have with them.”
The American Legion Tuesday released a statement saying it generally doesn’t support closing facilities but recognizes that changes may be needed due to shifts in population.
“The American Legion will always advocate for every U.S. veteran, but we realize that for VA to properly serve America’s veterans, it must from time-to-time optimize, reallocate, and re-invest in some of its decades-old infrastructures,” American Legion National Commander Paul E. Dillard said in a statement.
The VA built the Coatesville VA Medical Center in 1929. The hospital’s original mission was to provide neuropsychiatric care to veterans. In 2013, the Coatesville VA Medical Center was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Source: Berkshire mont