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Salisbury VA hospital to keep ER

http://66.225.205.104/JR20081212.mp3

Earlier this fall, the VA said it wanted to give veterans access to treatment closer to home, so it planned to cut ER and intensive care at the Hefner Veteran's Medical Center in Salisbury. The changes were put on hold when patients and employees protested. Now the VA says the ER will stay in Salisbury, but inpatient services will be provided through contracts with private hospitals. Union official J. David Cox with the National American Federation of Government Employees says veterans will face longer waits and less coverage in the private sector. "The VA is ranked as the number one health care provider in the world," says Cox. "Why would we not want to expand and improve that system? Why would we want to contract that out and get rid of it?" The VA's plan does include expanding services and hours at existing health clinics in Winston-Salem and Charlotte. In an effort to reassure patients and employees, the VA says changes at the Salisbury Hospital will not take place until 2013. VA officials also hope to avoid further protests by briefing hospital employees, media and local government leaders Friday at 11 a.m. in Salisbury.