When Parkview leaves its Randallia campus for its home out north, a campus of 64 acres and nearly one million square feet of buildings will be left without a main anchor. Parkview plans on leaving certain units to function – 120 beds, plus the surgical, medical, outpatient, and the 24-7 emergency departments will remain at Randallia’s campus. In addition, the Manchester College School of Pharmacy will relocate to the Randallia Campus.
But let me start with just a refresher on what has happened to our VA Hospital here in Fort Wayne and how I see Parkview as fitting in. In 2004, the CARES Commission decided that our inpatient unit was no longer sustainable and mandated its closure. The VA facility would still have an outpatient clinic, but veterans would be left to fend for themselves when it came to inpatient care. The thoughtless ideas tossed out by the VA system were to send area veterans either to Indy or to Lansing, Michigan – the two closest locations.
These locations would have required our veterans and their family members to travel two to three hours for inpatient care. A group of area veterans led by Dr. Tom Hayhurst, Dave Britton, Mike Tucker, and a number of others flat out refused to accept this solution and started a grass-roots group called “Veterans for Better Health Care.” I joined the group about two months after it was organized and am a member to this day.
We fought hard to keep the issue in front of the public and held rallies, handed out thousands of leaflets asking the public to take action, wrote letters to the editor, contacted our congressional senators and representatives, and participated in countless parades. All to no avail.
Despite Mark Souder’s late entrance into the issue and his much-touted efforts to keep the inpatient beds available, after a five-year battle and two costly studies by Booz Allen Hamilton, the disappointing decision was handed down to still go ahead and close the inpatient unit.
The recommendations also included building a new Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) north of the existing structure for ambulatory care and minor surgeries and to demolish the existing building. But no solution for inpatient care was provided.
That left area veterans wondering what would become of them when they needed inpatient care. The options were not terribly exciting. This decision currently leaves a tremendous gap in caring for veterans with health problems that require hospitalization. The options are limited:
- veterans can be required to travel to far away locations if no local alternative is provided, or
- veterans can be placed in the general hospital population in a hospital of their choosing with individuals who have no experience dealing with veterans’ issues, or
- a dedicated wing can be established at an area hospital.
This is where Parkview enters the picture. That dedicated wing could be housed in a vacated portion of the Randallia campus. In fact, in October 2008, Parkview spokesman John Perlich indicated that there had, indeed, “been discussions and continue to be discussions with the VA.” What a perfect solution to the issue of inpatient care for our veterans! A separate wing could be dedicated to housing inpatient care for our veterans, and personnel experienced in working with veterans could staff the wing.
Parkview decision-makers should be encouraged to work with the VA to take advantage of this golden opportunity to help our area veterans by resolving the ultimate issue involved – where will our veterans go for inpatient care?