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Hospital to close inpatient services

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    Hospital to close inpatient services

    Hospital to close inpatient services

    Saturday, February 9, 2002

    By Michelle Mullins
    Staff writer

    The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced Friday it plans to eliminate inpatient services at the Lakeside VA hospital in downtown Chicago and use the facility only as an outpatient clinic.
    While the changes might not take place for several years, the decision would leave Chicago with one inpatient VA hospital, the West Side hospital at 820 S. Damen Ave., which officials said is more convenient for veterans.

    Both Lakeside and West Side, which are located six miles apart, serve veterans from throughout Chicago and the suburbs. Veterans from Chicago, the southeast suburbs and Northwest Indiana, in particular, generally receive inpatient care at Lakeside.

    The number of veterans in the Chicago area is expected to decrease significantly by 2010, officials said.

    Leo Mackay Jr., deputy secretary of veterans affairs, said the consolidation of inpatient services at West Side would eliminate wasteful spending at the Lakeside hospital, which he said is underutilized.

    An estimated $1 million a day is wasted on maintaining underutilized VA buildings nationwide, Mackay said.

    In addition to consolidating inpatient services at West Side, the VA plans a major renovation of the hospital, Mackay said.

    The Hines VA hospital in Maywood, which serves many south suburban veterans, will also be renovated. And the blind rehabilitation and spinal cord injury centers at Hines will be updated, Mackay said.

    Lakeside will be remodeled into a modern outpatient clinic.

    "It's about caring and enhancing services and doing what is smart in business terms," Mackay said.

    "We're making services better. We're consolidating so we don't have unneeded hospital beds. Those dollars are not going to be spent on bricks and mortar but on flesh and blood."

    The VA has been working since October 2000 to come up with a plan to meet veterans' health care needs while realigning its medical facilities.

    But veterans outside of the Lakeside hospital, 333 E. Huron St., said Friday they didn't believe eliminating inpatient services at Lakeside is the best answer.

    "It's stupid," said William Andrews of Chicago, who served in the Army from 1964 to 1967. "They are eliminating services for the poor man, the front-line man. What about the poor veteran who can't travel all over the city?"

    Cleon Aaron Jr. of Chicago has been treated at Lakeside since 1957, the year after he came home from Korea with a bullet wound in one of his legs.

    "I enjoy coming here even though I'm hurting," said Aaron, an Army veteran. "It's the only outlet I have to go to."

    And Vietnam veteran Herbert Thomas of Chicago questioned what facilities are going to be available for future veterans.

    "What are our guys going to do when they come back from Afghanistan?" said Thomas, who served in the Army.

    U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-4th) of Chicago, who sits on the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said the plan needs to be reworked until veterans are satisfied.

    "Why cause anxiety? Why cause pain?" Gutierrez said.

    Gutierrez invited veterans to share their health care stories at 9 a.m. today at his office, 3181 N. Elston Ave. At 11 a.m. today, veterans plan to protest outside of the Lakeside hospital.

    Mackay said while veterans may be upset, the plan will ultimately improve their health care in the future.

    "This process is about taking infrastructure built in a different time and renovating, modernizing and streamlining it for different challenges," he said.

    Michelle Mullins may be reached at or (708) 633-5991.

    max, I moved this from the Doctors & Clinics forum to the Care forum because I wasn't sure that it fit the criterion of a recommendation of a doctor or clinic since this is about closing of a sci center. We are still discussing exactly how to manage the Doctor & Clinics Forum in terms of what fits and does not fit there. I thought that the people who would be most interested in the closing of a center would be in the Care Forum. Wise.


      This has little impact for veterans as the Lakeside VA is only 3 miles from the Westside VA, which actually has better access to transporation including the El, freeway and buses.

      Neither of these hospitals has a SCI Center. The SCI Center is at Hines VA (a Chicago suburb).

      Chicago was prime for this change, as they have 4 VA hospitals within the Chicagoland area, unlike most urban areas with only one.

      All VA hospitals and medical centers are required to maintain a SCI coordinator (social worker) and SCI clinic for day-to-day care, but are also required to refer the veteran to their designated SCI Center for complex or specialized SCI care as well as their annual check-up/evaluation. The SCI clinic staff are required to have training and some supervision from the SCI Center.

      The SCI-Nurses are advanced practice nurses specializing in SCI/D care. They are available to answer questions, provide education, and make suggestions which you should always discuss with your physician/primary health care provider before implementing. Medical diagnosis is not provided, nor do the SCI-Nurses provide nursing or medical care through their responses on the CareCure forums.