Citing cost and market size, VA recommends shifting more services to Rapid City
The Dept. of Veterans Affairs recommendations include the potential closure of V.A. Medical Centers in both Hot Springs and Fort Meade
RAPID CITY, S.D. — On Monday, the Department of Veterans Affairs offered up its long list of recommendations for care in Western South Dakota, including possible closures of the Fort Meade and Hot Springs V.A. Medical Centers.
“Facing declining enrollment in one of the smallest V.A. markets, the South Dakota West Market strategy intends to replace historic care delivery facilities with modern facilities located and sized to serve Veterans in the communities where they reside,” says the V.A. in its report.
The V.A.’s report states that Rapid City is the largest population center West River, and should become the primary location for services to veterans in the area. The current multi-specialty community-based outpatient care facility based in Rapid City does not have the necessary space to expand, which is why a new V.A. Medical Center is being constructed at 6565 Mount Rushmore Road.
That new V.A. Medical Center will also have a 54-bed community living center and 46-bed residential rehabilitation treatment program, consolidated from the VAMC’s at Hot Springs and Fort Meade.
South Dakota Representative Dusty Johnson says the state’s congressional delegation and governor will spend the next years fighting to show the Department of Veterans Affairs that the recommendations aren’t right for South Dakota.
“We understand that the V.A. of the future is going to look different than the V.A. of the past, but the reality is, these recommendations go way too far,” South Dakota Rep. Dusty Johnson says. “They’re recommendations that don’t understand the nature of this rural state, and frankly don’t make good on the commitments that we’ve made to our veterans.”
But the proposed changes don’t eliminate care for veterans in the Hot Springs and Sturgis communities. The report outlines the development of multi-specialty community-based outpatient centers in both locations to replace the VAMC’s.
“With 21,332 enrollees in the market in Fiscal Year 2019, retaining two VAMC’s in the small communities of Fort Meade and Hot Springs with nearly the same service offerings (outpatient, inpatient medical, CLC and RRTP) is not sustainable,” says the report.
The V.A. says they expect to see a 6.8% decrease in enrollment in the area by 2029. Demand for in-patient medical and surgical care is expected to decrease by 9.8%, and demand for mental health services by 13.2%. They do, however, forecast an increase in long-term care and other outpatient services by 6.9% by 2029.