VA Center could lose 77 beds

May 08, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

Seventy-seven of the 312 beds at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Martinsburg could be moved to Washington, D.C., but a local spokeswoman said no date has been set for the plan, which depends on funding.

The 77 domiciliary beds are for homeless veterans, many of whom are from the Washington area, said Barbara Corbin, staff assistant to the center's director.

Although Washington is home to the largest number of homeless veterans in the area, it has no domiciliary beds for them, Corbin said.


Moving the beds is part of a national VA restructuring plan that also calls for closing three veterans hospitals in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Mississippi and building two new ones in Nevada and Florida, the Associated Press reported.

Corbin said the only other plans in place for Martinsburg are increasing outpatient-care and specialty-care clinics.

Anthony Principi, secretary of Veterans Affairs, has endorsed building 156 community-based outpatient clinics by 2012, with an emphasis on serving rural areas.

The VA undertook the restructuring two years ago to shift services to areas where veteran populations are increasing and to modernize outdated buildings and to shed vacant space.

Under the plan, the VA expects to reduce costs for maintaining vacant space from $3.4 billion to $750 million by 2022, but to spend $6 billion on new construction during that time.

The hospitals the VA plans to close are in Pittsburgh, Brecksville, Ohio, and Gulfport, Miss.

A fourth hospital, in Livermore, Calif., will have all of its services except long-term care transferred elsewhere. However, a new VA nursing home will be established there.

The department will build new hospitals in Las Vegas and Orlando, Fla. The VA also wants to build new rehabilitation centers for the blind in Biloxi, Miss., and Long Beach, Calif., and place new spinal cord centers in Denver, Minneapolis, Syracuse, N.Y., and in a city that can serve Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas and part of Missouri.

There are about 25 million veterans in the country, with more than 7 million enrolled in VA health care.

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