Consultants offer options for VA

Choices for the local facility were developed under a federal contract.

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From no change in service to complete closure to expanded services, seven possible options for future operations have been compiled for Walla Walla's veterans hospital.

PricewaterhouseCoopers, the consulting firm studying the hospital, released options it plans to examine as land use and services are determined at the Jonathan M. Wainwright Memorial Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

The historic, 88-acre campus has been scrutinized by everyone from a local task force to members of Congress as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs revamps its nationwide health-care system.

But the recommendation of the federally contracted Pricewater-houseCoopers will be one of the most influential voices when VA Secretary Jim Nicholson determines how to deliver health-care services to veterans in the Walla Walla area, according to local task force members.

Options for the site also include construction of a new hospital on the campus and relocation of services to the Tri-Cities.

Although the Wainwright facility has operated since the 1920s, the VA is considering changes that will better align its health-care services with the moving population of veterans. To the frustration of many area vets and VA hospital employees, that may include elimination of some local services.

The issue was the focus of a study by the Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services Commission, on behalf of the federal VA. In early 2004, CARES recommended closure of Walla Walla's VA hospital and, where appropriate, contracting for acute inpatient medicine and psychiatric care and nursing home care in the Walla Walla area. Outpatient services, under that recommendation, would be maintained and moved off the VA campus after inpatient services are relocated.

Outcry from the community and support from members of the state's congressional delegation prompted further study of the facility, as well as more than 15 other veterans hospitals throughout the country.

As part of the process, PricewaterhouseCoopers has said the plan is to develop options that will be winnowed as the firm works with a federally appointed Local Advisory Panel to conduct public hearings in the area.

Walla Walla City Manager Duane Cole, a LAP member and chairman of a separate Community Task Force studying the issue, said this morning he hasn't read through the entire report and likely won't have comment until next week.

The 23-page report posted Wednesday on the VA's Web site (www.va.gov/cares) includes Pricewaterhouse-Coopers' summary of the market, current services provided, facility conditions, real estate and veteran concerns.

Those interested will be able to contribute to the firm's findings at the next LAP hearing Sept. 30 at the Wildhorse Resort & Casino in Pendleton.

The meeting, open to the public, will being at 9 a.m.

OPTIONS FOR VA HOSPITAL

Options listed for future operations of the Jonathan M. Wainwright Memorial Veterans Affairs Medical Center:

Option 1: No change. Maintain the current workload without any changes to facilities or programs, but accounting for projected utilization changes, and assuming same or better quality, and necessary maintenance for safe, secure, modern health care. No additional renovation would take place on buildings, except to secure that they would pose no danger to veterans, patients, employees or visitors.

Option 2: Contract all inpatient care; construct new outpatient medical and mental health.

Contract for inpatient medicine, surgery, psychiatric, nursing home care and the Psychiatric Residential Rehabilitation Treatment Program. Outpatient medical and mental health services would be expanded in new construction at an undeveloped parcel on the 88-acre campus. All the remaining parcels would be available for re-use/redevelopment.

Option 3: Contract inpatient medicine, surgery and nursing home care with local/regional providers; expand ambulatory care, outpatient and inpatient mental health and PRRTP.

Contract for inpatient medicine, surgery and nursing home care with local/regional providers.

Expand ambulatory and outpatient mental health services and inpatient mental health and PRRTP in new construction.

Remaining portions would be available for re-use/redevelopment.

Option 4: Contract all inpatient and outpatient care; vacate campus. Contract for all services with local and regional providers.

Vacate campus in a phased process and make entire campus available for redevelopment.

Option 5: Construct new inpatient and outpatient facilities to replace the existing hospital. Construct new facilities to accommodate the workload projected through 2023; contract as-needed for capacity beyond that. Phased construction of the new facilities would be consolidated on an undeveloped parcel at the campus. All remaining portions would then be made available for re-use/redevelopment.

Option 6: Relocate services and construct new facilities in the Tri-Cities. Construct new inpatient and outpatient hospital in the Tri-Cities, while retaining local ambulatory care/outpatient mental health site as a community-based outpatient clinic in a renovated space on the existing campus. All remaining portions of the campus would be available for re-use/redevelopment.

Option 7: Relocate services to the Tri-Cities, contract for inpatient medicine and surgical care, expand outpatient medical and mental health at a new Walla Walla facility. Contract with local/regional providers for inpatient medicine, observation, surgery and nursing home care. Construct new inpatient mental health and PRRTP in the Tri-Cities. Retain Walla Walla's outpatient medical and mental health site as a newly constructed community-based outpatient clinic.

To view the options, go to www.va.gov/cares.

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