Walla Walla is wise to do local study of VA hospital

We don't have faith the final federal report on veterans' health care in the region will be accurate. The local study could be an insurance policy against incompetence.


Generally it's a waste of money and time for local governments to duplicate studies that federal or state governments are conducting.

But the $162,145 the city of Walla Walla is spending _ with cash obtained through a federal grant _ for a study to evaluate conditions and options at the local VA hospital is a wise investment.

To this point, the federal government has botched just about everything in regards to changing the mission of the Jonathan M.

Wainwright Memorial Veterans Affairs Medical Center. VA officials appear to be focused on pinching pennies rather than serving the health needs of our veterans.

Last year, as plans were discussed to downsize the local full-service hospital into a clinic, it became clear VA officials had given too little thought to how the various health-care needs of the veterans of Eastern Washington and Oregon would be met.

The more that was learned about the plan _ or perhaps that's lack of a plan _ the more outraged we became. So, too, were many in Congress, including Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and former Rep. George Nethercutt, R-Spokane. As a result, the VA was forced to slow down the process and conduct further study. (Murray obtained the federal grant that funds the local study.) Not surprisingly, perhaps, the federal study has been delayed. The bungling continued.

And we don't have a whole lot of faith that when the final federal report is completed it will be accurate.

We aren't alone. That's why the city is overseeing a local study. It could serve as an insurance policy against incompetence.

The consulting firm, Buffalo Design of Seattle, will review existing information of the VA Medical Center, assess site conditions and local needs for the hospital. It will also look into potential partnerships with the state, local entities and tribal governments to provide and enhance services for veterans.

It might be that, in the end, the conclusion reached from the federal study is exactly what is drawn from the local study.

But if it's not, and the federal government moves to close the hospital, the local study could be just what is needed to ensure area veterans receive the medical care they have earned.


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