Volume 76, Number 13 | August 16 - 22, 2006

V.A. Hospital to remain open, keep current services

By Albert Amateau

Mayor Bloomberg and the city congressional delegation last week hailed the announcement by R. James Nicholson, U.S. secretary of Veterans Affairs, that both V.A. hospitals, on First Ave. at E. 23rd St. in Manhattan and in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, would remain in operation.

Nicholson made the announcement on the mayor’s weekly radio broadcast on Fri. Aug. 11, ending the uncertainty of the past two years when the V.A. was considering combining services or closing one or both hospitals as part of a national realignment of veterans’ medical care.

Nicholson’s announcement also included plans for modernizing the V.A. nursing home in St. Albans, Queens.

Congressmembers Carolyn Maloney, whose district includes the Manhattan hospital, and Jerrold Nadler, both lobbied over the past two years to save the two hospitals. They issued separate statements last week praising the decision. Senator Hillary Clinton, who also testified at hearings to maintain both hospitals, said in a statement that the decision was “a victory for New York’s veterans.”

Senator Chuck Schumer also lobbied for the two hospitals and appeared last Nov. 11, Veterans Day, at a rally for the hospitals in Madison Square Park. State Senator Tom Duane, whose district includes the 23rd St. V.A. hospital, also urged saving the two institutions.

Nicholson — a former National Republican Committee chairperson who served in Vietnam — said the decision to keep both hospitals with essentially the same current services would continue the Manhattan hospital’s relationship with New York University Medical Center on First Ave. and the Brooklyn hospital’s relationship with the SUNY Downstate Medical Center.

“V.A. is committed to continuing world-class medical care that is convenient and accessible for New York City veterans,” Nicholson said.

Bloomberg recalled testifying at a V.A. hearing last year, “that we have a moral obligation to care for the men and women who fought to defend our freedoms.” The mayor said the city’s four V.A. medical facilities, including one in Kingsbridge in the Bronx, provide “unparalleled care for more than 1.3 million veterans in the New York City region.”

A report for the V.A. by PricewaterhouseCoopers last year proposed nine options, three of which called for maintaining both hospitals and the other six calling for consolidation or eliminating one or the other hospital.

The 23rd St. facility includes a complex of six buildings interconnected by walkways with 350 inpatient beds on a 6.4-acre campus. Throughout the complex, 49,000 square feet of space is leased to other institutions, 96 percent of that to N.Y.U.

The Pricewaterhouse report last year identified 25,000 square feet of unused space in the main building on 23rd St. The options proposed last year all call for eliminating unused space in both locations.

The Brooklyn hospital is noted for cancer care and the Manhattan hospital has a reputation for cardiovascular care, cardiac surgery and neurological care. The Manhattan hospital also specializes in the care of H.I.V. patients and AIDS research. The 23rd St. hospital’s relationship with the Rusk Institute for Rehabilitation Medicine provides services for wounded veterans.

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