WNY Delegation Fight Decision To Close Warsaw Clinic

March 4, 2012 Updated Mar 4, 2012 at 11:13 PM EDT

By WKBW News

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WNY Delegation Fight Decision To Close Warsaw Clinic

March 4, 2012 Updated Mar 4, 2012 at 11:13 PM EDT

WASHINGTON, D.C. ( RELEASE ) Sunday, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Congresswoman Kathy Hochul urged Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to direct the VA to take another look at the benefits that the Warsaw VA clinic provides to Western New York veterans before closing the clinic. Following a briefing in which the VA presented its reasons for closing the clinic, the lawmakers today pointed out that the closure decision fails to meet the criteria that should justify the decision. The lawmakers note that the clinic serves a vast majority of veterans in the area, and has the capacity to expand to a larger size in order to meet the VA’s standard for care. After the VA confirmed that the decision was not cost-related, the lawmakers are urging the VA to undertake a more detailed study of the clinic, which will demonstrate its importance to the local veterans community and could help in the fight to keep it open.

“The VA is acting like they’re blindfolded, by not considering all factors and simply saying ‘shut it down,’” said Schumer. “We are strongly urging the VA to take off that blindfold, see the light, and learn every last bit of information about the Warsaw clinic. They’ll find a local veteran’s population that deserves care and relies on this clinic, a clinic that’s ready to grow and meet demand, and a clinic that deserves to stay open. Before the VA rushes to this foolhardy decision, I’m urging them to take another look and carefully consider the effects on our local veterans.”

“Our veterans answer a call higher than any other,” said Senator Gillibrand. “They fight for our nation, and we need to fight for all the resources they deserve, including a VA worthy of their service. Western New York's veterans rely on this clinic, and we can't afford to lose it. It needs to stay open and available.”

“The brave men and women who have served our country deserve both reliable and easily accessible healthcare, whether they live in an urban, suburban or rural part of this nation," said Congresswoman Hochul, a Member of the House Armed Services Committee. “Instead of rushing to close this facility, I urge the VA to expand utilization of healthcare services in Warsaw and enhance outreach to veterans in the region.”

In their letter, the lawmakers write, “The VA's analysis shows that over ninety percent of veterans who use the Warsaw CBOC are within a thirty minute drive. In addition, while the current clinic is only 1,100 square feet and does not currently accommodate the 3,500 square feet that the VA anticipates would be required for certain care, the VA has reportedly not inquired with the WCCH whether additional space can be made available. In fact, during the briefing and in the attached enclosure the WCCH CEO specifically affirmed that in light of recent construction at the hospital campus, he is confident that a suitable space can be offered for the CBOC which would accommodate the VA's needs.

“Additionally, last year the Warsaw CBOC served 798 patients, which is not a departure from previous years and is a utilization consistent with past performance. Still to boost future utilization, local veterans advocates contend that since these 798 veterans represent only a small fraction of the total veterans population in this region, utilization can be increased further with a greater outreach effort. Lastly it was revealed that while the VA analyzed various data in making this decision, the VA did not directly survey the veterans who use this clinic to determine where they would actually prefer to access primary care services. Based on communications to our offices from the local veterans community, this notably absent factor, would likely be revealing and germane to the VA's decision making process.”

The text of the lawmakers’ letter to VA Secretary General Shinseki appears below:

Hon. Eric K. Shinseki

Secretary

Department of Veterans Affairs

810 Vermont Avenue, NW

Washington, DC

Dear Secretary Shinseki,

In light of information presented at a briefing this week conducted by representatives with the Department of Veterans Affairs Western New York Healthcare System (VAWNYHS) for local officials, veterans stakeholders, and officials from the Wyoming County Community Hospital (WCCH), we write to underscore and elaborate on the letter we sent to you last week opposing the VA's decision to close the Warsaw Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC).

It was explained during the meeting that cost was not a factor in this decision since the current lease of $1,050.60 is relatively modest. Rather, the VA evaluated several criteria including whether at least seventy percent of patients are within a thirty minute drive of the clinic, whether the physical size and configuration of the clinic supports the VA's patient care goals, the current and future anticipated workload, and the VA locations where veterans must now access care. Based on these criteria, we agree with the local officials who attended the briefing that the Warsaw CBOC currently meets or can demonstrate it meets these criteria with additional due diligence.

The VA's analysis shows that over ninety percent of veterans who use the Warsaw CBOC are within a thirty minute drive. In addition, while the current clinic is only 1,100 square feet and does not currently accommodate the 3,500 square feet that the VA anticipates would be required for certain care, the VA has reportedly not inquired with the WCCH whether additional space can be made available. In fact, during the briefing and in the attached enclosure the WCCH CEO specifically affirmed that in light of recent construction at the hospital campus, he is confident that a suitable space can be offered for the CBOC which would accommodate the VA's needs.

Additionally, last year the Warsaw CBOC served 798 patients, which is not a departure from previous years and is a utilization consistent with past performance. Still to boost future utilization, local veterans advocates contend that since these 798 veterans represent only a small fraction of the total veterans population in this region, utilization can be increased further with a greater outreach effort. Lastly it was revealed that while the VA analyzed various data in making this decision, the VA did not directly survey the veterans who use this clinic to determine where they would actually prefer to access primary care services. Based on communications to our offices from the local veterans community, this notably absent factor, would likely be revealing and germane to the VA's decision making process.

Therefore, while we respectfully reiterate our opposition to this closure, we request that at a minimum the VA set aside any final determination until it conducts a preference survey with local clinic users and conducts due diligence with the WCCH to assess a more suitable lease space.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer Kirsten Gillibrand Kathy Hochul