Battle Creek VA Medical Center safe from potential closure

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BEDFORD CHARTER TWP. —The Battle Creek Veterans Affairs Medical Center, first opened in 1924, appears immune to closure after briefly appearing on the chopping block in a controversial plan that would have closed 35 VA medical centers in 21 states.

“Locally here, we continue to be focused on the needs of veterans and how we serve veterans and provide them with the care they need, where they need it and how they want it,” Brian said. Pegouske, public affairs officer for the Battle Creek VAMC.. “It will continue to move forward.”

In this 2019 photo, U.S. Army veteran Jerry Kendzior sings during music therapy Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019, at Battle Creek VA Medical Center in Battle Creek, Michigan.

In March, the Department of Veterans Affairs recommended to the Assets and Infrastructure Review Board that impatient and ambulatory services be moved from the Battle Creek VAMC to the Grand Rapids/Wyoming area.

The closure of the center, on 206 acres in Bedford Charter Township, would have been part of a $2 trillion infrastructure plan that would include the replacement of 18 VA medical centers, the construction of 13 new facilities and the closure of 17 major hospitals.

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The VA’s plan stemmed from the 2018 Mission Act, which required the department to reassess its physical footprint and make recommendations to a new commission.

In late June, a bipartisan group of a dozen U.S. senators — particularly those from states facing the closure of the VA Medical Center — opposed the AIR Commission process, saying its recommendations would be especially bad for veterans. who lived in rural areas.

Members of the House of Representatives then voted to fund the commission, killing the process.

While the commission’s removal means the Battle Creek VAMC is safe from closure for now, it has shed some light on some of the challenges of healthcare in the aging campus, with its buildings constructed between 1931 and 1960. .

Battle Creek VAMC is located at 5500 Armstrong Road, adjacent to Fort Custer. It offers inpatient medical, inpatient mental health, medical rehabilitation, and outpatient services, serving some 44,000 veterans in 22 counties. It is also the Battle Creek area’s fourth-largest employer with some 1,600 workers, although a number of them work in outpatient clinics elsewhere.

The Mental Health and Wellness Center at Battle Creek Veterans Affairs Medical Center at 5500 Armstrong Road in Battle Creek, Michigan.

Battle Creek VAMC Hospital has 276 beds, including 55 mental health beds, 109 community living center beds, and 101 rehabilitation treatment beds. In 2021, 33% of visits were done remotely via telehealth.

“One lesson we learned quickly with COVID was that we could do a lot more things on a virtual basis,” Pegouske said. “People have adapted quickly, our providers and our veterans. You don’t have to come far enough, you can get some of that care at home. With mental health, many veterans have come to grips with telehealth.”

In March, the VA found the Battle Creek facility did not meet modern health care standards, pointing to maintenance, architectural and engineering issues. The Battle Creek VAMC is not unique among VA medical facilities, with more than 6,300 people age 60 on average.

“There are obviously some things in the structure of modern health care delivery that are more challenging when you’re retrofitting a building,” Pegouske said. “You can adapt and move projects forward much faster in a newer setting.”

An inpatient room at Battle Creek Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Bedford Township is pictured Monday, August 1, 2022.

The Battle Creek VAMC is currently upgrading with various projects, including updates to its urgent care center, a road improvement project, and a recent expansion to its pharmacy waiting room.

“Our team is doing a really great job of looking at Veterans’ needs every day and trying to improve the Veterans’ experience,” Pegouske said. “Part of our health mentality is to put veterans at the center of care. When we look at things like infrastructure, we want to continue to put veterans at the center of care.

Contact reporter Nick Buckley at [email protected] or 269-966-0652. Follow him on Twitter: @NickJBuckley

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