The uncertain future of the Brooklyn VA hospital
Rep. Dan Donovan introduces a bill that would require increased information sharing from the VA to local patients and elected officials amid privatization fears.
The sudden closure of the ear, nose and throat clinic at the Brooklyn Veterans Affairs Medical Center due to staffing issues set off alarm bells for its patients.
Veterans in Brooklyn and Staten Island, who rely on the facility for accessible care, have been worried about the facility’s status for years. They said they have seen a slow decline in services and the closure of an inpatient surgery unit in 2015, despite protests from veterans. Though Martina Parauda, director of the VA NY Harbor Health Care System, has insisted that there are no plans to close the facility and that the other closures were due to temporary staffing issues, patients, advocates and representatives remain unconvinced.
Rep. Dan Donovan, who joined a rally on June 1 in opposition to the clinic’s closure, stepped in to rectify what he sees as a concerning trend in VA services. To support veterans in his district, Donovan recently introduced a bill that would require increased information sharing from the VA to local patients and elected officials, specifically related to planned service changes or closures at VA medical facilities.
The legislation would require VAs to announce any service changes or closures 60 days before the changes take place and to hold a forum where veterans and other stakeholders can testify. “So far, our advocacy has been able to keep everything open and will continue to do that,” Donovan said.
The closure of the Brooklyn campus, which sits on increasingly expensive real estate, would make thousands of veterans in Brooklyn and Staten Island either travel to sites in Manhattan or the Bronx, or seek private care. The uncertainty over the facility’s future comes as President Donald Trump signed legislation in early June that opened up the possibility for more VA-funded care in the private sector.
“In my personal opinion, I think under the current administration, they would like to close down all the federal VAs completely and give vouchers to veterans to go to a local doctor or a local hospital to get their services,” said Assemblyman Michael DenDekker, a Queens Democrat who chairs the Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
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