Hot Springs VA closure is still far from reality

The proposed closure of the veteran’s administration hospital is a hot topic in Hot Springs. In December, The Veterans Administration proposed it would move its Hot Springs Medical Center to Rapid City, in an effort to provide better care.

“I don’t know if it would be a benefit to anybody,” said Hot Springs Mayor Don DeVries.  “It’s certainly not a benefit to the veterans.”

But community members have turned their negative issue into a positive campaign.

“There’s young people, old people, veterans, non–veterans, everybody’s working together,” Scott Haden, Executive Director of the Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce. “We’re getting the word out and we want people to know that our VA takes care of the veterans and we think it should stay here.”

Fourteen committees have formed the Save the VA Campaign. It’s hard for anyone to drive through town without seeing one of the signs.

“Isn’t that the heart of America when people come together and have an advocacy for a question or concern or idea?” asked Stephen DiStasio, Director of the VA Black Hills Health Center.  He says he applauds the community’s campaign efforts.

But the town’s concern has shifted to the rumored closure of the medical center’s ear, nose and throat clinic.

“After it came out that it was going to close they said no, there’s a doctor that’s been on vacation,” the Mayor said.

But with no backup in place, the town’s main focus is to keep and expand the VA Center, starting with a counter proposal.

U.S. Representative Kristi Noem of South Dakota will host a town hall meeting on Saturday to address VA health care issues.

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