Emergency services shut down at Topeka VA Hospital

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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The Veterans Health Administration has ordered emergency medical services suspended at a Topeka VA hospital.

The federal agency on Friday announced the suspension for Colmery-O’Neil VA Medical Center, which will continue to operate as an urgent care clinic while federal officials review its policies, procedures and staffing, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported (http://bit.ly/1klBB16 ). Further reasons for the closure were not immediately released.

Veterans reporting to the hospital will be given appropriate care but officials are advising those with major medical emergencies to call 911. VA officials said in a news release that contacts have been made with Topeka hospitals and ambulance services to ensure veterans can get emergency care when needed.

Sen. Jerry Moran, a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, criticized the decision, saying the Veterans Administration has failed to address a long-standing shortage of medical personnel at its hospitals. Many veterans who live in rural Kansas already have to travel long distances to a VA hospital.

“Now, Topeka veterans are losing access to the emergency care services they could need at any moment,” Moran said in a statement. “This is outrageous.”

He said it is “far past time” for Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki and the VA to do their job.

“I have asked time and again about their failure to address the tremendous shortage of VA physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants,” Moran said. “It is causing a new VA backlog - a backlog of our nation’s heroes who are not receiving the health care they need.”

The Capital-Journal reported that Moran in November 2013 introduced legislation to expand eligibility for emergency care treatment reimbursement for veterans. Current law prohibits the Veterans Administration from reimbursing emergency room care at non-VA hospitals for veterans who haven’t received care at a VA clinic or hospital within the past two years. Moran’s bill would waive the two-year requirement and allow veterans to be reimbursed for emergency care at non-VA facilities.

The measure is awaiting a vote in the full Senate.

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Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, http://www.cjonline.com

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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