WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, today blasted the Veterans Health Administration’s (VHA) decision to halt emergency room services at the Colmery-O’Neil VA Medical Center until the current physician shortage is remedied by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA).
"Veterans who have served our nation with duty and honor deserve access to quality health care when they need it," Sen. Moran said. "Because Kansas is a rural state, many of our veterans are already forced to travel long distances to visit a VA hospital. Now, Topeka veterans are losing access to the emergency care services they could need at any moment. This is outrageous. It is far past time for Secretary 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. It is causing a new VA backlog – a backlog of our nation’s heroes who are not receiving the health care they need. The news today reaffirms my commitment to making certain the VA provides answers and takes action."
The VHA announced the break in emergency room services at Colmery-O’Neil VA Medical Center this morning, stating that the hospital would convert to urgent care services starting today. Emergency services will remain on pause until the VHA has examined all policy, procedures and staffing levels at the facility.
The VHA has directed veterans who are having a medical emergency to call 9-1-1. The VA Eastern Kansas Health Care System is working with local hospitals and ambulance services to make certain veterans get the emergency care they need.
As a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Sen. Moran is committed to improving access to care for Kansas veterans. In April 2013, he questioned Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs Eric Shinseki and VA officials about the need to hire physicians at Kansas VA Hospitals and Community Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOCs), as well as the importance of hiring mental health care professionals to treat veterans in rural areas.
In November 2013, Sen. Moran introduced legislation to expand emergency care treatment reimbursement eligibility for veterans. Current law prohibits the VA from reimbursing emergency room care at non-VA facilities for veterans who haven’t received care at a VA clinic or hospital within the past two years. Veterans who have recently returned from deployment or live in rural communities often can’t meet this requirement as a result of extensive wait times for scheduling VA facility appointments. This legislation would waive the two-year requirement and allow our nation’s heroes to be reimbursed for emergency medical care at non-VA facilities. The VA estimates this bill would provide access to medical treatment for 144,000 veterans across the country. Sen. Moran’s bill was approved by the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and is awaiting a vote in the full Senate.
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