Veterans healthcare

Realignment of veterans’ health facilities suspended

PIERRE, SD (AP) — Proposed changes to veterans’ healthcare facilities in South Dakota and elsewhere are on hold at this time.

Some U.S. senators, including Mike Rounds and John Thune of South Dakota, have agreed to dismantle a commission tasked by the Department of Veterans Affairs to make closures, downsizing and other major changes to medical facilities.

This means the VA Hospital in Hot Springs will remain open.

“It would have shut down, not just the facilities here in Hot Springs. This would have greatly reduced facilities at Sturgis. He would have closed the clinic there in Wagner, South Dakota. it would have destroyed the Sioux Falls emergency room,” Rounds said.

The commission was considering moving VA medical services from Hot Springs to Rapid City. These programs include inpatient and outpatient care, nursing homes, and rehabilitation services.

Senators choose not to confirm nominations to the commission. Rounds says that means the commission will expire and won’t have enough time to review the recommendations, South Dakota Public Broadcasting reported.

The Hot Springs VA has been on the chopping block since 2011. Patrick Russell is part of a Hot Springs group called “Save The VA”.

“I think it’s necessary to maintain services — to create services — to provide our veterans with the care they were promised,” Russell said. “The mission of the VA is to care for those born of battle. That’s what they should be doing.

Russell worries that the VA will reduce the quality of care over the next few years.