VA may merge Bedford and Boston hospitals
The VA New England Healthcare System announced yesterday that it plans to ask the US Department of Veterans Affairs to merge the Bedford VA Medical Center with the bigger Boston system. The change is aimed at making the centers more efficient and improving patient care, said Dr. Michael Mayo-Smith, director of the New England VA network.
The Bedford network, which includes the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital and four outpatient clinics, would join three veterans medical centers that have been managed together since the late 1990s: Brockton, West Roxbury, and Jamaica Plain.
For years, the VA has been looking for ways to consolidate services at the four medical centers.
Mayo-Smith said the proposal would not close any facilities and is aimed not at downsizing but at integrating care. In fact, demand for services in Bedford has grown in recent years, Mayo-Smith said, though he could not provide numbers.
It remains to be seen how the change could shift the focus at the Bedford campus. While all three of the medical centers in the Boston system provide primary care and basic mental health services, they each have specialties, he said. The Brockton campus provides acute and long-term inpatient mental health care, and West Roxbury houses inpatient surgical services.
Bedford provides various services, including a strong geriatrics and homelessness program, Mayo-Smith said. It also is a key point of care for veterans traveling south from New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine.
He stressed that the new plan is different from one advanced several years ago to close Bedford.
“We do not plan to close any facilities,’’ he said. “We don’t have any plan to cut services. We certainly don’t have any plan to lay off any employees.’’
VA officials are holding an open house for veterans groups today at 6 p.m. in the Bedford Building 78 theater. Mayo-Smith said the New England system will take comments on the proposal and offer a plan to the US Department of Veterans Affairs no later than Oct. 1. If approved, the change could happen as soon as October 2012.