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Military

VA considering closure, replacement of Durham medical center

A 2011 photo of the Durham VA Medical Center.
Veterans Health
/
via Flickr
A 2011 photo of the Durham VA Medical Center.

The Department of Veterans Affairs wants to close the Durham VA medical center and replace it with one located elsewhere in the Triangle.

The first thing to know is – if this happens – it won’t be soon. It could be 20 years or more before a replacement is built and the current facility is shut down. The recommendations, which are part of a national report, have to go through a lengthy process.

Pete Tillman is the associate the associate director of the medical center. He says there “be no impact on VA employees or services that we are currently providing” in the near term.

And not only would it be replaced by another VA medical center in the Raleigh-Durham area, but the recommendations include building a VA outpatient facility the size of a small hospital. That would be in Durham and help continue the VA’s close relationship with Duke Health.

A full national list of recommendations outline what would be the biggest retooling of VA healthcare facilities since World War II.

The idea is to accommodate geographic shifts in the population of veterans and changes in how modern medical care is delivered. Tillman says if it is replaced, the effects on how healthcare is delivered in the Durham VA’s current 27-county market will be positive.

“This is largely really good news for the veterans that we serve. Because of this building’s aging infrastructure,” Tillman said. “And that's precisely what this is meant to correct – is to get us the right assets and infrastructure to provide 21st century care to the veterans.

The area served by the Durham and Fayetteville VA medical centers is expected to see a 20 percent increase in enrolled veterans in the next seven years.

But the Durham VA, which was built in 1953, is now completely hemmed in by roads and Duke-owned buildings. The report says it can’t be expanded, and has electrical, parking, heating and cooling problems and needs more than $190 million in work.

“So we are going to have our 69th Birthday here pretty soon,” Tillman said. “We know that that's even older than the median age of VA infrastructure hospitals like this, which is around 58 years. So we know… We for sure, need a new hospital.”

The national VA report proposes various additions and changes to smaller VA faculties around the state.

In all, 35 VA medical centers in 21 states would be closed, replaced or reconstructed under a nearly $2 trillion infrastructure overhaul unveiled earlier this week by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

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