MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Veterans clinics would open in Alexandria, Redwood Falls and northwest of the Twin Cities under a proposal to restructure the Department of Veterans Affairs medical system.
A special unit also would be created for spine injury patients in Minneapolis. The plan, which is under review, drew some criticism at a public hearing Wednesday for not offering more clinics in North Dakota and South Dakota, where veterans are heavy users of the VA medical system.
Minneapolis hosted one of the 40 public hearings being held across the country by the Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services Commission, which was charged with redesigning the veterans medical system to meet demand in the next two decades.
A proposal will be submitted to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs in December.
In Minnesota, there are 450,000 veterans, of whom 90,000 are enrolled in the VA system. The number is expected to increase 2 percent by 2022.
With the opening of clinics in Alexandria, Redwood Falls and the northwest metropolitan area, Minnesota would have 10 primary care clinics available to veterans. A new clinic also would be added in western Wisconsin.
All but the Alexandria clinic would be in existing community clinics that contract with the VA to provide care to veterans. The Alexandria clinic would use VA employees to provide care.
Regional VA officials also hoped to add seven clinics in the Dakotas and one in Bemidji, said Dr. Robert Petzel, director of the VA region that includes Minnesota, the Dakotas, Nebraska and Iowa.
In North Dakota only 37 percent of veterans can reach a clinic within an hour's drive, one of the lowest rates in the country, Petzel said.
Under the proposal, the Minneapolis VA Medical Center would add a 20-to 30-bed inpatient unit for spinal injury patients so veterans won't have to travel to Milwaukee or Chicago for such care. The hospital already has an outpatient clinic for spinal injury patients.
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