Monday, July 21, 2008

Hospital cutbacks spark outrage among veterans

Hospital cutbacks spark outrage among veterans

The planned Aurora medical center would treat 500,000 in the Rocky Mountain region.
By Jessica Fender
The Denver Post
Article Last Updated: 07/20/2008 11:41:22 PM MDT

Colorado veterans who want their own hospital rallied near the state Capitol on Sunday, incensed by a recently released report that shows potential budget overruns led Veterans Affairs officials to scale back plans for an Aurora medical facility.

The cutbacks announced in April left the embattled medical center at the Fitzsimons campus — originally envisioned as a self-sufficient hospital — sharing space and resources with the University of Colorado. The impact on services is unclear, but it first appeared the hospital would serve fewer spinal cord injury patients.

Veterans and congressional leaders pointed out Sunday that years of delays and revisions have helped inflate construction costs for their ideal hospital to more than $1 billion. The scaled-back version apparently meets the more than $700 million budget.

"For veterans in the Rocky Mountain region to have . . . rented space in someone else's hospital is inconceivable," said National Foreign Legion Commander Tom Bock. "We've got to make sure this plan . . . builds us a stand-alone hospital."

The VA declined to comment beyond the letter Secretary James Peake sent Colorado congressmen with the report.

In it, Peake says veterans will be better served by improvements to satellite clinics, home care and telecare programs than a costly hospital in the metro area.

Leasing beds rather than building a new hospital could "become a pivot point for future" facilities, according to the VA's report.

The agency and the Bush Administration have been mulling whether to continue providing in-house care for veterans or contracting services to outside companies.

The report provides an overview of a $4 million study the VA conducted on Fitzsimons and completed in January without sharing details with veterans groups or lawmakers — a move that angered Colorado's delegation.

Congress has already set aside $168 million for the project and could approve another $769 million this year.

Fitzsimons would serve nearly 500,000 veterans from Colorado, as well as those from Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska and Montana.

Jessica Fender: 303-954-1244 or


My two cents: this is just more of the same mentality that brought the mess at Walter Reed a year ago, contracting out government responsibilities. The need to make a profit for the at profit organization will prevail over the best care possible for the veterans, they will look for ways to cut costs, will veterans get needed Cat scans or MRIs or will medical problems be left undiagnosed in their early stages and get to the level of disease that surgery or chemo won't save the life of the veteran. This has hapened many times even at VA hospitals, but when you put a middleman in the equation the customer in this case the veterans usually end up losing.

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