Brooklyn pols blast plans to close VA Medical Center unit
Plans by the Veterans Administration New York Harbor Healthcare System to close an in-patient surgical unit at the Brooklyn VA Medical Center in Bay Ridge are coming under fire from two local elected officials who charged that the shutdown will hurt patients, particularly elderly veterans.
U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan and state Sen. Marty Golden said they are adamantly opposed to the planned closure of the 12W Medical Surgical Unit at the Brooklyn VA. The closure would result in a loss of 25 beds at the hospital at 800 Poly Place, according to Donovan and Golden, who said the closure will force veterans, many of whom are disabled and elderly, to travel to Manhattan for treatments of certain medical issues.
The unit is slated to be closed this summer. New York Harbor Healthcare System is part of the Veterans Administration and runs the VA Medical Center in Brooklyn, as well as facilities in Manhattan and Queens.
Donovan and Golden are demanding answers as to why the unit is closing, how the decision was made, and why Harbor Health didn’t notify the public earlier.
“I am deeply disturbed by this proposal and the rapid pace in which it was developed,” said Donovan (R-C-Southwest Brooklyn-Staten Island). “The VA did not brief my office or other local offices before formulating this plan, and news of 12W’s imminent closure has caused panic among veteran patients, nurses, and other hospital employees many of whom live in Brooklyn and Staten Island.”
The 12W unit accounts for one-third of inpatient beds and provides care to a wide variety of medical and surgical patients, according to Donovan and Golden, who said that it serves veterans requiring respiratory and dialysis treatments.
Golden (R-C-Bay Ridge-Southwest Brooklyn), a member of the senate’s Committee on Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs, said it’s a mistake to close the unit.
“Undoubtedly, those who have served our nation deserve access to the best health care possible. Any failure to attend to the needs of our soldiers, in this case eliminating 25 hospital beds, is wrong and irresponsible of our government,” he said.
“It’s an undue hardship on our vets and their families to travel all the way to Manhattan and cause a break in their care,” Donovan said. “I want to get to the bottom of how, why and when the Brooklyn VA arrived at this drastic conclusion. There are many unanswered questions.”
But Martina Parauda, director of the VA New York Harbor Healthcare System, defended the planned closure.
Parauda said health care is moving more and more in the direction of ambulatory surgery as opposed to in-patient surgery and that the length of stay for a patient in the hospital has also seen reductions in recent years as post-surgical care has improved.
The beds in the 12W Unit could be put to better use elsewhere in the hospital, she said. “I would like to shift my resources to where there is a need,” Parauda told the Brooklyn Eagle.
Besides, Parauda said, the Brooklyn VA still as two other in-patient surgical units.
As for having to travel to Manhattan for surgeries, Parauda said veterans requiring certain types of cardiac surgeries already have to go there. The Brooklyn VA site hasn’t handled those types of procedures in 20 years, she said.
VA employees who currently work in 12W will not lose their jobs, the director said. The employees will be transferred to other units.
And there are no plans to close any of the hospital’s mental health units, she said.
“What is best for veterans drives what I do,” Parauda told the Eagle.
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