Since the release earlier this year of the Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) recommendations, there has been an amount of uncertainty regarding the future of the Salem VA Healthcare System and specifically with the continuance of the Salem VA Medical Center (VAMC). I feel it’s important to assure both our Veterans and our employees and all those who depend upon VA, that the medical center will remain.
While the recommendations from the 2018 market assessment may not come to pass in full, they do provide us with a roadmap for the future; a look at what is needed as we modernize our VA at the local level. To that end, we have not stopped looking at ways to continue to modernize our facility, using and updating what we have, to maintain the standards of care our Veterans need and deserve.
In just the past few years, the Salem VAHCS received funding for several construction and renovation projects. These projects included opening a $10.6 million renal dialysis unit, invested several million to renovate inpatient rooms so all Veterans would have private rooms with ensuite bathrooms, expansion of the Emergency Department which will open in early 2023 completing a project worth nearly $9 million; and within the next year we hope to bring online a new, more efficient boiler plant. In addition, we continually maintain scores of buildings on a 200+ acre campus that includes more than 34 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 2023, in accordance with the MISSION Act of 2018, the entire VA will again go through a market assessment to study the current and future health care needs of Veterans across the country and to evaluate VA healthcare infrastructure.
There are two truths that we know and that these assessments back up – the Veteran community in Southwest Virginia is getting smaller and older, and our facilities are becoming more expensive to maintain, with some of them nearing 90 years of age.
Despite this, however, there is a bigger truth – that as a nation, we have made a commitment to care for our Veterans. For the foreseeable future, the care of Veterans here will continue to be served at the Salem VAMC campus with expanded reach through our Community Based Outpatient Clinics in Staunton, Lynchburg, Wytheville, Danville, and Tazewell, along with our mobile telehealth team. Be assured that there is not now, nor has there been at any point, a future envisaged without a Veterans Medical Center in the Salem/Roanoke area.
To the more than 30,000 Veterans served in the 26-county area of Southwest Virginia by the Salem VA Healthcare System, I say we are here for you, and we will remain here for you.
To the medical professionals and supporting staff who are considering joining our ranks, to make good on President Abraham Lincoln’s promise to ‘care for those who have borne the battle’, we will be here for you as well.
As we approach the 2023 market assessment, we do so knowing that whatever changes may come in the future, the constants that will remain will be VA healthcare for our nation’s heroes and the commitment of the men and women of the Salem VAHCS to promote the health and well-being of our Veterans.
Rebecca Stackhouse is the Executive Director of the Salem VA Healthcare System which includes the Salem VA Medical Center and Community Based Outpatient Clinics in Wytheville, Tazewell, Danville, Lynchburg, and Staunton.