VA Health System Report for Massachusetts

CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – A report that provides recommendations for modernizing Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care facilities and ways to expand and improve health care delivery for veterans in the VA. national scale was published.

Read the full report of the VA’s recommendations to the AIR Commission.

The MISSION Act of 2018 required the VA to conduct a national study and issue recommendations for future investments in VA healthcare facilities. The VA conducted a large-scale assessment of its health system over several years. The idea is to create a long-term health care plan that will meet the needs of the growing number of veterans and much-needed improvements to medical facilities. Some of the buildings used are over 80 years old.

For western Massachusetts, the study suggested closing and moving services from the VA campus to Leeds. This idea has sparked concern and outrage among veterans and their supporters who rely on local services.

VA Secretary Denis McDonough recently discussed current conditions at VA facilities, including infrastructure issues and health care management. McDonough stressed the importance of bringing the VA healthcare system into the 21st century with new and updated medical facilities, recognizing gender-specific care and emphasizing mental health, addictions and homelessness.

WATCH VIDEO – A conversation with Secretary VA McDonough on the department’s recommendations to the Assets and Infrastructure Review Board.

The assessment looks at the changing demographics of veterans: age, where and when they served, where they live, and the growing number of women in the military. The recommendations are broken down by market. The evaluation revealed that “The population of registered veterans in the Western market is expected to decline. Inpatient intensive care demand is also expected to decline; however, the demand for long-term care and outpatient services is expected to increase. The West Central Massachusetts VAMC, located in Northampton, Massachusetts, was built in 1923 and has significant facility maintenance issues and capital investment needs. As the population has changed over time, the facility is no longer in the optimal location to serve veterans. The largest market concentrations of the Registered Veteran population reside along a largely urban corridor that runs from Springfield, Massachusetts, through Hartford, Connecticut, and into the Greater New Haven area, Connecticut.

The market strategy for the Western Massachusetts region includes:

  • Provide equitable access to outpatient care with modern facilities nearby
    Veterans live and through the integration of virtual care;
  • Enhance VA’s unique strengths in supporting veterans with complex needs;
  • Provide equitable access to quality hospital medical and surgical care through
    utilization of care provided at VA facilities and through partnerships, community providers, and
    virtual care.

The proposed plan to respond to this strategy is to:

  • Move CLC, PRTR and outpatient services currently provided to Central Western
    Massachusetts VAMC to current or future VA facilities and discontinuance of such services at
    West Central Massachusetts VAMC;
  • Establish strategic collaboration to provide mental health services to inpatients and
    discontinuation of these services to the Central Western Massachusetts VAMC. If it is impossible to enter
    in a strategic collaboration, use community suppliers;
  • Shift urgent care services to community providers and discontinue these services at
    the West Central Massachusetts VAMC;
  • West Central Massachusetts VAMC Closure: Distribution of Services to
    well-located facilities for veterans will allow the closure of the existing VAMC;
  • Springfield MS CBOC moved to a new site near Springfield, Massachusetts,
    and the closure of the existing Springfield MS CBOC.

The Assets and Infrastructure Review Board (AIR) provides recommendations that are just that, recommendations. Before any plan is put in place, there are several processes to move forward, including approval from the Commission, President, and Congress, and input from VA medical providers, veterans, and support organizations. It could be years before any changes are made. Currently, there are no plans to close the Leeds campus, reduce services or lay off employees.

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