Topeka VA hospital still working to re-open ER 8 months later

TOPEKA (KSNT) – The Topeka V.A. hospital’s emergency room doesn’t appear to be any closer to opening, despite the fact that two months ago they were back to a full staff and ready to roll.

The Colmery-O’neil V.A. Medical Center has been waiting for Washington to give the go ahead.

“Well, they’re trying to do it right I believe,” Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins told Kansas First News in an interview late last week.

The V.A. Medical Center in Kansas’ capital city shut down emergency room operations in late January. A staffing shortage, including E.R. doctors was to blame. Nearly eight months later, they’re still not operating as an E.R. but as an urgent care clinic.

V.A. spokesman Jim Gleisberg told Kansas First News in an email Tuesday afternoon that a hospital team is holding weekly meetings in order to meet the requirements of the V.A.’s central office. He says full staffing, training, standard operating procedures, and support services such as a lab, x-ray and an intensive care unit must be in place before they get the green light.

Rep. Jenkins says the Kansas Delegation is on top of it.

“We stay in contact with our local V.A.’s; certainly the one here in Topeka,” she said. “I don’t think any emergency room should open up until they’re ready and can provide the quality care that our veterans deserve.”

In early June the facility had hired new physicians and staff and said they were ready to re-open. At the time, a spokesman said they were just waiting on Washington.

Jenkins and Senator Jerry Moran had harsh words for the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs Tuesday. In a joint statement to Kansas First News, they wrote:

“This is exactly the problem with the VA. Too often it requires constant supervision just to get the VA to do their job. It appears this particular problem is a lack of communication and action at the national level. The VA must do its most basic job without having members of Congress breathing down their backs.

The recent VA legislation that passed congress and was signed into law last week was a good first step in addressing failures like this and to hold VA officials accountable. However, there is no grace period for the new leaders at the VA. Our veterans have waited long enough and we will continue to pressure the VA until the emergency department at Colmery-O’neil is reopened.”

The V.A.’s spokesman says no date has yet been set for the E.R. to re-open.

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