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My Turn: Full-service VA hospital in Manchester would help

Re “No need for a full-service vets hospital” (Monitor editorial, Jan. 28):

One would surmise that the simple, cost-effective solution is for veterans to receive inpatient and specialty services at area hospitals under contracts with the Department of Veterans Affairs, but it is not as simple nor readily available as the fiscally minded pragmatist would suppose.

Expanding the Manchester VA hospital into a full-service hospital would not necessarily be duplicative and redundant, as the editor might conclude. Instead, it would mean veterans would receive much more timely and complete medical service here in New Hampshire. From personal experience, the six hours I have spent on several occasions (travel to and from as well as wait times) for the one-hour treatment I have received at the VA hospital in West Roxbury, Mass., could be far better spent.

I was sent down to the hospital in West Roxbury because the Manchester VA does not provide many services. Is this a matter of convenience, efficiency or adequate services provided?

When I asked why my treatment could not be contracted out and why I could not receive services here in Concord, my doctor at the Manchester VA explained that the pot of money to fund “under contract” services outside the VA is very limited and quickly depleted. He pleaded my case persistently to seek treatment locally. Additionally, a regularly scheduled board of doctors and executive administrators convene at the Manchester VA to determine who and what will be funded from this limited pot of money.

If New Hampshire residents sincerely desire to support their veterans, they should make it known to their state and federal legislators that the under-contract fee-based services’ pot of money must be increased exponentially.

If not, support expanding the Manchester VA into a full-service hospital, thereby allowing veterans to receive more complete and timely medical treatment.

(Oliver B. Spencer of Concord is a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps and a member of the Concord School Board.)

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