Our members of Congress and our Governor are really, really mad that the Department of Veterans Affairs proposal to “realign and modernize VA health care facilities to improve Veteran health care access and outcomes” may involve closing facilities in Hot Springs, Sturgis, and Wagner.
Robert McDivitt, VISN 23 Network Director, and Lisa Curnes, Medical Center Director at VA Black Hills, made the announcement to Fort Meade and Hot Springs employees in a meeting Friday afternoon.
“The secretary asked that we brief you on the market assessment process, AIR Commission process and preliminary recommendations from that process prior to the recommendations going out for public comment,” McDivitt said. “That’s fairly unusual in the VA.”
McDivitt said the Asset and Infrastructure Review report will be released to the public March 14, along with “thousands” of pages of data.
He said the preliminary recommendations that would be presented to President Joe Biden in 2023 after a year-long public comment period will be to relocate the outpatient mental health services to a new Rapid City facility and transition both Fort Meade and Hot Springs into community-based outpatient clinics.
The review report stems from the VA MISSION Act, which was approved in 2018. It established a new process to develop, review, approve and implement a list of recommendations to modernize and realign the Veterans Health Affairs medical facilities.
The review included looking at the changing needs of veterans, where needs are going in the next 10 to 20 years, how health care delivery can change including in ambulatory care, virtual care and telecare, and other methodologies [Siandhara Bonnet, “VA to Recommend Reducing Hot Springs, Fort Meade Services, Building New Rapid City Facility,” Rapid City Journal, 2022.03.04].
Gee whiz: Thune, Rounds, and Noem all brought this review upon themselves with their own votes in Congress? That’s got to sting.
Making the sting worse for Noem has to be the source of this specific recommendation, Guidehouse Consulting:
McDivitt said a team from Guidehouse Consulting is proposing a plan for the Black Hills.
“The Guidehouse team is recommending essentially that we build a new VA in the Rapid City market and add services to that facility,” he said.
McDivitt called it a “multi-hundred-million-dollar” concept. Noem said the plan includes replacing the VA hospitals at Hot Springs and Sturgis with clinics [Seth Tupper, “Noem Slams Federal Proposal to Realign Veteran Health Care in South Dakota,” SDPB, 2022.03.04].
Guidehouse! That’s the same outfit that got $10 million from Noem to mismanage the state’s coronavirus relief dollars and make sure plenty of relief reached Noem’s friends and family. Kristi privatizes coronavirus relief to Guidehouse make a big profit, and Guidehouse repays her with this flaming sack of political poo? Ingrates!
Guidehouse LLP received $681 million in federal contracts in Fiscal Year 2021. $681 million could probably keep the Hot Springs, Fort Meade, and Wagner VA facilities open for a couple years. Congress gave the VA just $621 million in this year’s budget to prevent opioid abuse.
Veterans Affairs will publish the actual plan on March 14.
Correction 15:53 CST: Oops! I originally reported that Senator Mike Rounds supported the VA Mission Act; my link to the votes above shows he was one of five nays in the Senate in 2018. I regret the error!