A new proposal is being billed as a 'medical miracle' that will keep the Hot Springs VA and its medical services in the Southern Hills. That proposal was unveiled on Monday.
Veterans' National Recovery Center president Bob Krause says, "Congress just authorized 18 new specialty centers for the VA. We want to grab one for Hot Springs."
It's an optimistic new proposal, aimed at saving the Hot Springs VA from closure. For the past two years, the organization known as the Veterans' National Recovery Center has been drafting a plan to create a medical research institute and college on the campus of the Hot Springs VA Medical Center.
Krause says, "It addresses the issues of doctor shortages and doctor problems. It addresses the issues of populations of patients, and it helps to underwrite the cost of VA services here."
The VNRC says its proposal will be presented as part of the overall environmental impact statement process being undertaken by the Department of Veterans Affairs to determine the future of the Hot Springs VA Medical Center. It would create a new osteopathic college on the Hot Springs VA campus.
Osteopathic Physician Don Swift II says, "We really have an eye to the body's ability to heal itself. We tend to be a bit more holistic or conservative, from what I've seen. We may have a little bit different of an approach, but the end is the same. We want to heal someone."
The college would leverage its research on regenerative medicine for burns into a long-term investment to fund the continued operation of the facility.
Krause says, "We will put that money into a non-profit foundation. We will dedicate that fund as it grows to the college, to the research institute, to the clinic, and to the V.A. Hospital itself."
Meanwhile, members of the 'Save the VA Committee' say their concerns about the proposal center around what's called an 'Enhanced Use Lease.' An EUL is essentially a program that the VA uses to rent out unused facilities to non-VA programs.
'Save the VA Committee' member Bob Nelson says, "That really opens the door for the VA to say 'there's someone out there that wants these buildings. We can vacate them and move forward with our proposal.' That concerns us. Those buildings should be up there for veterans. Mr. Krouse's proposal, if he's able to pull it off, certainly would enhance that."
The VNRC says its proposal would only work if the Department of Veterans Affairs decides *not* to follow through with closing certain elements of the Hot Springs facility.
A Congressional field hearing to discuss the future of the Hot Springs VA is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Thursday at the Hot Springs Mueller Center.