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Dept. of Veterans Affairs recommendation to close Hampton VA Medical Center raises questions

The report says the Hampton building is aging, located in an area where flooding is a problem and hard to get to because of traffic on the HRBT.

HAMPTON, Va. — Army veteran Robert Robinson moved to Virginia three years ago, and since then, has relied on the Hampton VA Medical Center.

“Many of us really need it. It provides a great service," said Robinson.

But a new proposal by the Department of Veterans Affairs released this week, would close the facility.

RELATED: Department of Veterans Affairs proposes closing, replacing Hampton VA Medical Center

The recommendation would also build two new facilities: one in Newport News and the other in the southern part of Hampton Roads, possibly Norfolk. 

“We’re looking at at a 10 to 20 year timeframe, if it all goes through,” said Dr. Taquisa Simmons, faculty director at the Hampton VA.  

Simmons said new facilities in the area would be a “win” for staff and veterans. She didn't want to call it a negative for the Hampton clinic, just yet.

“Because even though it’s a recommendation, those recommendations could possibly change," Simmons said. 

RELATED: VA needs to improve staff response to nursing home complaints, according to report

The report says the Hampton building is aging, located in an area where flooding is a problem and hard to get to because of traffic on the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel.

“The Hampton VAMC’s aging infrastructure does not meet current design standards and has major architecture and engineering challenges that make it impractical and inefficient to continue investing in the facility to provide patient care," reads the recommendation.

RELATED: Mixed review for Hampton VA Medical Center

The Hampton VA Medical Center offers outpatient and inpatient services. It was built in 1940 and the most recent renovation was in 2012, according to the report.

“I can understand perhaps there being the need for one of the southside, but to move it from Hampton seems to be quite, quite interesting," said Hampton mayor Donnie Tuck.

Tuck said the report caught him by surprise. 

“I understand the need to try and create efficiencies," Tuck said. "One of the real questions is: will there be efficiency? And will it be more convenient for the services to be broken up and sent as far away as Richmond for some of the things that they are providing there at Hampton?”

Democratic senator Tim Kaine called the recommendations “complicated,” but said they should be taken seriously. He said there needs to be significant public input before a final recommendation is sent to the White House.

Kaine said if leaders do determine closing the older facility is the best option, they should not decide until they know there is money to build new ones.

“If you’ve made that decision about a facility, you quit investing in it and you don't have the money to build a new facility, you hurt, in this case, the veterans who are getting care there," Kaine said to reporters Wednesday. 

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) said he would only support the closure of the Hampton VA medical center "once the new proposed medical center in Newport News and Norfolk become a reality."

Robinson, who lives in Newport News with his wife, likes the idea of new facilities in the area -- but not at the expense of losing the one in Hampton. 

“There‘s a lot of us veterans that need the service and use the service, and they seem so overwhelmed," Robinson said. "They’re doing their best, but another location to reprieve some of the pressure from Hampton, I think, would be ideal.”

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