Bay Ridge

Schumer joins fight to save VA hospital surgical unit

June 24, 2015 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Sen. Charles Schumer has written to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to request a reversal of the decision to close the surgical unit at the Brooklyn VA. Eagle file photo by Paula Katinas
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A controversial plan by Veterans Administration New York Harbor Healthcare to close a 25-bed surgical unit at the Brooklyn VA Medical Center has drawn the ire of New York’s senior senator.

On Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-New York) called on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to reverse the decision to close the 12W medical surgical unit. Schumer charged that the closure of the in-patient unit will pose a considerable inconvenience and diminution in health care to the veteran community in Brooklyn, Staten Island and beyond.

Schumer also charged that the decision to close the unit was made without communication with key New York area and Brooklyn VA hospital stakeholders, including employees, patients and elected officials.

The Brooklyn VA Medical Center is located at 800 Poly Place in Bay Ridge.

“Closing this unit at the Brooklyn VA Hospital will negatively impact the quality and availability of inpatient health care services for our large veteran community in Brooklyn and Staten Island,” Schumer said in a statement. “I am strongly urging the VA to reverse this decision and immediately suspend plans for a July 21st closure, as it will significantly and adversely impact these veterans’ access to nearby, quality health care services.”

Closure of the 12W medical surgical unit at the Brooklyn VA Hospital will significantly reduce the number of beds available for patients who require inpatient and surgical care from 71 to 46, Schumer said.

The unit is scheduled to stop taking new patients on July 1 and will cease operations by July 21.

Current patients will be discharged or transferred to other inpatient medical surgical facilities within the New York Harbor Healthcare system. 

Schumer has written to U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald, urging the VA to immediately suspend its plans to close the surgical unit. In his letter, Schumer wrote that the closure will result in an enormous burden for family members of patients and could result in further delays in delivering critical medical care across the NY Harbor Healthcare system.

Last week, U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan (R-C-Southwest Brooklyn-Staten Island) and state Sen. Marty Golden (R-C-Bay Ridge-Southwest Brooklyn) both spoke out against the planned closure.

“Undoubtedly, those who have served our nation deserve access to the best health care possible,” Golden said. “Any failure to attend to the needs of our soldiers, in this case eliminating 25 hospital beds, is wrong and irresponsible of our government.”

Donovan said the closure will cause “an undue hardship on our vets and their families to travel all the way to Manhattan and cause a break in their care.’

But in an interview with the Brooklyn Eagle, Martina Parauda, director of the VA Harbor Healthcare System, defended the planned closure.

Parauda said that 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 Eagle.

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