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VA hospital to close ICU, change emergency care

Updated: Thursday, March 20 2014, 12:15 PM EDT

By: WJAC Web Staff

ALTOONA, Pa. -- An area veterans' hospital has announced plans to close its intensive care unit and move away from emergency department care, in a transition to become an urgent care facility.

Officials with the James E. Van Zandt VA Medical Center in Altoona announced in a release on Wednesday that following a three-year evaluation and review of service demands and referrals, the decision to make the changes was made.

Officials said the four-bed ICU will close April 21, the same day the emergency department will cease round-the-clock operations, and move to operate as an urgent care facility from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.

The medical center’s changes are part of a shift in the way care is provided to veterans, officials said. Recently the hospital has increased access to primary care, community-based outpatient clinics and specialty care, telehealth, outpatient rehabilitation and home-based primary care.

"Our goal is to ensure veterans have the appropriate delivery of critical care available to them," William H. Mills, Altoona VA medical center director, said in the release. "We have high standards and believe in providing the best health care to Veterans. We will continue that high quality standard with our staff and in partnership with local community hospitals to provide critical care services to local veterans."

Officials said that for several years veterans with complex medical issues, like those who suffered from heart attacks and strokes, have been transferred to other facilities in the area that provide a higher level of care.

Officials said based on those transfers, the processes are already in place to care for patients requiring critical care. The VA's inpatient Acute Care Unit will remain open.

A few employees will be affected by the charges and they are being offered reassignments to support other growing programs at the facility, officials said.

VA hospital to close ICU, change emergency care

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Edgar Snyder

Washington Times