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Friday, January 10, 2014
By CHABELLA GUZMAN Staff Reporter

Area Veterans may be looking at a longer trip for medical attention if the VA Black Hills Health Care System’s Environmental Impact Statement comes back against the VA hospital in Hot Springs, S.D.

“We take about 10 people a week to Hot Springs,” said John Brehm, director of Scotts Bluff County Veterans Service Office. “I know a lot of them drive up on their own, since they don’t want to wait on the van.”

The van is a service provided by the county, which takes veterans back and forth to Hot Springs three days a week. The round trip is about 300 miles. If the hospital is closed or becomes an outpatient clinic, the operation would move to Rapid City, another 57 miles to the north.

The study will begin within the next few months. VA BHHCS’ proposal is to enhance the delivery of quality, safe and accessible care closer to veterans’ homes throughout the VA BHHCS service area that includes western South Dakota, northwestern Nebraska, parts of eastern Wyoming and southwestern North Dakota.

Congressman Adrian Smith, of the 3rd District and chairman of the Rural Veterans Caucus, said whatever survey is done will most likely have a negative impact on communities.

“From the very beginning, I have been working on this issue, and have been part of writing at least five letters to get the issue worked out in the best interest of our veterans,” he said.

If the survey proves to find the existing VA Hot Springs hospital isn’t necessary, the residential rehabilitation treatment program would relocate to Rapid City and the Rapid City community-based outpatient clinic would be expanded. Veterans who previously received inpatient care at the VA Hot Springs hospital would be able to receive VA-funded care in their local communities or at the Fort Meade VA hospital.

Brehm said he has spoken with many of the area veterans about the contracting out of services.

“Some veterans aren’t happy to go locally, they like the service they receive at the VA and want to keep it that way,” he said.

Smith would agree and added that veterans have good and existing relationships with their providers at the Hot Springs VA.

“They don’t need the heavy hand of government interfering with the quality care they (veterans) are receiving now,” he said. “They have incredible satisfaction with the care they received now and I do not want to see government stand in the way.”

For more information and to give input, contact Stephen R. DiStasio, director of VA Black Hills Health Care System, by email stephen.distasio@va.gov, phone by 605-720-7170. Additional information as it becomes available will be posted at vwvw.blackhills.va.gov.

Guzman, C. (2014, January 10). Survey to decide fate of hot springs va hospital. Star herald. Retrieved from http://www.starherald.com/news/local_news/survey-to-decide-fate-of-hot-s...

News Topic(s): VA Health