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Study recommends replacement of Salem VA Medical Center, new outpatient clinics

Salem VA Medical Center
Nick Gilmore
Radio IQ
Parts of the Salem VA Medical Center were constructed in the 1930's.

A report issued Monday by the Department of Veterans Affairs recommends building a new VA Medical Center in the Roanoke area, as well as opening additional outpatient clinics in the Bedford and Richmond areas.

The recommendations are the result of a multi-year review of the VA's medical services, demand and facilities. The recommendations were submitted to a federal Asset and Infrastructure Review Commission Monday.

In the report, VA administrators said their goal was to make services more accessible to veterans, shift resources to areas with growing veteran populations and to modernize facilities.

According to the report, the veteran population of the area served by the Salem VA Medical Center is expected to decline by nearly 10% by the end of the decade. The age of the medical center is also a concern. The most recent parts of the campus were constructed in 1992 and the oldest date to the 1930's. The report recommends constructing a new, modern facility for acute inpatient care in the Roanoke area. Some outpatient and emergency services would be shifted to a new strategic partnership or community providers. The study did not recommend any particular site in the Roanoke Valley.

The study also recommends adding a community based outpatient clinic in Bedford and several in the Richmond area. The study area that includes Richmond, Charlottesville, Fredericksburg and Hampton Roads is expected to see a nearly 14% increase in the number of veterans needing medical care by the end of the decade. The study did not recommend any changes to the VA Medical Center in Richmond, but did suggest new outpatient clinics in Mechanicsville, Chesterfield and Petersburg. If implemented, new VA Medical Centers would be built in Newport News and the Norfolk area. The existing Hampton VA Medical Center, which is prone to flooding and access difficulties, would be closed.

In the southwest corner of Virginia, the study recommends closing outpatient sites in Marion, Jonesville and Vansant.

The recommendations still have to go through a series of public and Congressional reviews before going to the President sometime next year. Congressman Morgan Griffith, who represents Southwest Virginia's 9th District, praised the VA's care in a statement. "Since this recommendation is just the beginning of a process with several steps yet to be completed, including public hearings and comment, I will pay close attention to how potential facility consolidation could affect area veterans.”

Senator Mark Warner said he was pleased the VA had completed what he called preliminary step. "I look forward to engaging with veterans and communities around Virginia to make sure that these recommendations would live up to their stated aim of effectively meeting the future health care demands of our growing veteran population here in the Commonwealth.”