Veterans Affairs Plans Closure of Large Portion of Hot Springs Facility, Relocate Most Care to Rapid City

January 12, 2017 by Tim Mikulski

The main administration building of the Battle Mountain Sanitarium provides the entrance to the Mission/Spanish Colonial Revival Style domiciliary.

photo by: Jennifer Buddenborg

Last week, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Bob McDonald issued a decision on the future of the Battle Mountain Sanitarium that would lead to the closure of a large portion of the Hot Springs facility, and relegating the complex to an outpatient-only care center.

VA Black Hills Health Care Director Sandra Horsman commented that public feedback and advocacy efforts did alter the initial plans of the department, including revised plans to convert part of Battle Mountain Sanitarium into a call center and hosting outpatient and dialysis clinics in Building 12 of the complex.

In response to the announcement, the following statement was issued by David J. Brown, executive vice president and chief preservation officer of the National Trust:

“This magnificent medical campus has provided high quality medical care to veterans for over a century. A recent release of VA hospital ratings showed the Hot Springs campus to be one of the top performing veterans medical centers in the country. Despite this, and widespread opposition by the veterans themselves to the VA’s proposal, the Secretary has decided to abandon dozens of well-maintained campus buildings that could continue to serve veterans’ medical needs—a move that also threatens the economic stability of this small, rural town because of the loss of jobs.

“The National Trust for Historic Preservation finds the Secretary’s decision to be shortsighted. We have stood alongside veterans, members of Congress, and the American Legion to ensure an objective and thoughtful decision-making process that would put veterans first and preserve the historic buildings for the continued benefit of veterans. The fundamental goals that the VA says it wants to promote – such as “veteran-centric” services, organized around “veterans’ needs,” and medical care “closer to their homes” – are actually undermined rather than advanced by the VA’s decision.

“The National Trust will continue to work with veterans, local partners, members of Congress and the incoming VA administration to push for a better outcome at Battle Mountain Sanitarium, one that preserves this special place that has served veterans for more than a century. The VA needs to craft a new solution that meets the needs and preferences of veterans who wish to continue receiving their health care at the extraordinary Battle Mountain Sanitarium. The National Trust stands ready to assist.”

U.S. Sens. Mike Rounds and John Thune and U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem also released a statement in opposition to the closure, vowing to continue to pursue "a solution that puts our veterans in the best possible position to receive the high-quality health care and support they deserve."

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