The Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center announced this afternoon it will close its 24/7 emergency department and convert it to an urgent care clinic that is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The change will take place Aug. 16.
In a news release, the VA said it’s making the change because it has a shortage of qualified providers to staff laboratory, radiology and respiratory services that are needed by an emergency department in order to safely provide care.
“We will continue to work with all our community-based health care providers to ensure our Veterans continue to receive the care they earned as servicemembers,” said Roseburg VA Director Keith Allen in a written statement. “We will continue listening to our Veterans and families, and work toward streamlining and improving VA-provided and community care access.”
The possibility of conversion to an urgent care has been under discussion at the VA for at least a year, and veteran leaders had suspected it was a possibility as early as 2009 when the VA closed its intensive care unit.
Veterans have expressed opposition to the idea, and an announcement by former interim VA director Dave Whitmer last year that the emergency department would drop 24/7 care drew fire. It was dropped after the VA was unable to receive a waiver to operate as a 12-hour emergency department.
Allen had warned veterans at a town hall meeting in June that a downgrade to urgent care was likely. He said that he believes it’s safer for veterans to obtain emergency care at other hospitals that provide full services.
Douglas County Veterans Forum President Larry Hill said Friday the change was not unexpected; however, he expressed disappointment that veterans were not informed that the time frame had be changed. They were previously told the change would likely take place at the end of the year.
He said the possibility had been raised by the last three or four directors, but each drew back and kicked the can down the road.
“This was coming, and it was just a matter of time. It really was,” he said.
VA Public Affairs Officer Tim Parish said the change came down suddenly, in the last 36 hours, due to additional staffing shortages in key positions. The decision was ultimately about patient safety, he said, and the regional network that oversees the Roseburg VA approved a more rapid downgrade than originally planned.