OPINION: There is more to the VA hospital cutbacks story
In her recent article, “Veterans Fear the Worst as Brooklyn VA Hospital Announces Cutbacks,”
Mary Frost provides details relating to the potential closing of Brooklyn VA Hospital’s (VA) Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) clinic. Although she quoted SUNY Downstate, the article itself is misleading as it only portrays parts of Downstate’s relationship with the ENT clinic and does not provide readers the complete picture.
The ENT clinic at the VA is managed by the Division Chief of Otolaryngology, who is employed by Maimonides Medical Center, not by SUNY Downstate. Moreover, the faculty who cover the VA clinics provide contracted services that are independent of any SUNY Downstate engagement or compensation. Downstate has had an ongoing, contracted resident physician training affiliation agreement with the VA for nearly 30 years.
Unfortunately, over time, opportunities for surgical training at Brooklyn VA have dwindled significantly, rendering it inferior to other potential training sites for resident education. Therefore, the SUNY Downstate Department of Otolaryngology has decided to move the two residents at the VA to an alternate site.
SUNY Downstate is not in opposition of the ENT clinic. How to maintain this clinic without resident coverage is a decision to be made by the VA and the Division Chief; it is not the responsibility of SUNY Downstate. Downstate opted to end our resident affiliation agreement with the VA in December of 2017 (providing six months’ notice as stipulated in the agreement) since the partnership no longer meets our resident physicians’ training needs. SUNY Downstate Medical Center and Brooklyn VA Hospital have no other agreements related to ENT service beyond last year’s terminated contract.
While it is SUNY Downstate’s hope the ENT clinic remains operational, it is the responsibility of the ENT clinic division chief and the Brooklyn VA Hospital to recruit new doctors and to decide how to manage the ENT service after any participating resident physicians leave.
Richard M. Rosenfeld, MD, MPH
Distinguished professor and chairman, Department of Otolaryngology
Residency Program Director for Otolaryngology
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