Realignment of veterans’ healthcare facilities on hold

June 29, 2022 GMT

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — Proposed changes in veterans’ healthcare facilities in South Dakota and elsewhere are on hold for now.

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

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

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

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

The senators are choosing not to confirm appointees to the commission. Rounds says that means the commission will expire and not have enough time to review recommendations, South Dakota Public Broadcasting reported.

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The Hot Springs VA has been on the chopping block since 2011. Patrick Russell is with a Hot Springs group called ‘Save The VA.’

“I feel that it is necessary to maintain the services—build the services—to provide our veterans the care they were promised,” Russell said. “The mission of the VA is to care for those who have born the battle. That is what they should be doing.”

Russell worries the VA will scale back the quality of care over the next several years.