In a stunning announcement, the VA Northern Indiana Healthcare System said Tuesday in a news release that inpatient operations have been "temporarily paused" at the Intensive Care Unit and Acute Medical Unit at the Fort Wayne campus of the VA Medical Center at 2121 Lake Ave.
The release said that the cessation will allow the health care system "to review our processes, provide training to our staff, and ensure our continued ability to maintain the most flexible systems and highest standard of care for our veterans."
Sheryl Grubb, a public affairs officer with the health care system, reiterated this afternoon that the closure would, indeed, be temporary. Grubb said that a total of four of 25 inpatient beds were being used at the time of the announcement and that those patients are expected to be healthy discharges within days.
Grubb also said veterans would still be seen for initial assessments and, if further treatment is required, would be diverted to other VA facilities like Indianapolis or Ann Arbor, Mich. Grubb downplayed the idea of private healthcare facilities being used but did not rule it out completely as the assessment period has just begun.
The release said that all other services in the Northern Indiana system are unaffected. In fact, one of the reasons Tuesday's announcement was surprising is that a little more than a year ago, a resolution known as H.R. 2646 – also known as the Veterans Health Care Facilities Capital Improvement Act of 2011 – passed by a vote of 412-3 in the U.S. House of Representatives.
In that resolution, a 27,000-square-foot mental health annex that would offer mental health services, including treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and a clinic that would focus on substance abuse, was listed. That clinic was not to exceed a total cost of $2.85 million.
That bill became law on Oct. 5, 2011.
James Wegmann, a communications specialist for U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, said this afternoon that members of Stutzman's staff have reached out to families of veterans, while Stutzman's chief of staff has contacted Veterans Administration officials to obtain more details about Tuesday's announcement.