Citing cost and market size, VA recommends moving more services to Rapid City

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RAPID CITY, SD — On Monday, the Department of Veterans Affairs released its long list of recommendations for care in western South Dakota, including possible closures of medical centers in Fort Meade and Hot Springs VA.

“In the face of declining enrollment in one of the smallest AV markets, the South Dakota West Market’s strategy is to replace historic care facilities with modern facilities located and sized to serve veterans in communities where they reside,” the AV says in its report.

The VA report says Rapid City is the largest population center in West River and is expected to become the primary location for veterans services in the area. The current Rapid City-based multi-specialty ambulatory care facility does not have the space to expand, so a new VA medical center is being built at 6565 Mount Rushmore Road.

A map showing the current West River VA market

This new VA medical center will also have a 54-bed community living center and a 46-bed residential rehabilitation treatment program, consolidated from the Hot Springs and Fort Meade VAMCs.

But the proposed changes do not eliminate veterans care in the Hot Springs and Sturgis communities. The report describes the development of multi-specialty community outpatient centers in both locations to replace VAMCs.

“With 21,332 enrolled in the market in FY 2019, maintaining two VAMCs in the small communities of Fort Meade and Hot Springs with nearly the same service offerings (outpatient, medical inpatient, CLC, and PRTR) does is not sustainable,” the report said.

The VA says it expects a 6.8% decrease in enrollment in the region by 2029. Demand for inpatient medical and surgical care is expected to decrease by 9.8% and demand for mental health services by 13 .2%. They do, however, forecast a 6.9% increase in long-term care and other outpatient services by 2029.

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A future market map provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs

You can read the full VA commission report by clicking here. West River information begins on page 74.

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