New Suburban Veteran’s Hospital for Louisville

On Veterans Day, 11-11-11, the Courier-Journal reported on the status of plans to build a new Veterans Hospital for the region of Louisville Kentucky.   The community has been waiting with decreasing patience for the results of all the promises and hearings.  The update did not, however, announce that a final site had been decided, nor that financing was in hand, nor that a start date was known.  Instead, the big news was that the site selection process had decided against leaving the hospital where it is on Zorn Ave, and against moving to the downtown medical center of metropolitan Louisville.   Subsequent notice of new road work near the intersection of the Watterson Expressway and Route 42 suggested that the new VA would be located there.  On Dec 14, we received further official verification from United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric Shinseki, that indeed the 4906 Brownsboro Rd  address is the first choice for the new medical center.  The second choice site is the one Factory Lane near the Gene Snyder Expressway.  It was estimated that from the time financing is secured, construction will take a little more than three years.  The letter from the Secretary appears to be in response to a request from Sen. McConnell for a realistic timeline for the project.  The Veterans’ Day update quoted 5 veterans, 4 of whom expressed disappointment and a preference for staying at Zorn, one of whom was relieved that at least it would not go downtown. Continue reading “New Suburban Veteran’s Hospital for Louisville”

New Site for Louisville Veterans Hospital?

Pending Sign at Bronsboro Site

Actually, this is just my guess, or perhaps wish. Nonetheless, something is happening at one of the finalist sites for the new Louisville Veterans Hospital in Louisville. Over the past few weeks, ground preparations were made for the sign above. Today I noticed that the blank sign itself was erected. I am willing to accept a bet for a drink at your favorite bar that soon there will be a VA Hospital sign there.

Certainly if the Vets themselves had any say in the matter, the deal would have been settled long ago. I attended two major public hearings early in the selection process. Both were heavily attended by veterans and officers of veterans’ organizations. Except for a veteran or two who came with the official party from the University of Louisville and its Hospital, to a person they vigorously opposed a downtown location for the new hospital. One or two representatives of major organizations said they personally had no objection to a downtown hospital, but that their members were overwhelmingly opposed. The most common reason I remember was that they did not want to deal with the parking and traffic of downtown Louisville. They also like the thought and culture of a dedicated facility and staff of their own. They feared being farmed out to other downtown hospitals– indeed this possibility was part of the original planning.

The University and its hospital, and perhaps a partner hospital or two, lobbied very heavily and at the highest levels for a downtown location. They were able to convince the Mayor’s office to take their side. It was and still is big-time politics. The University’s reasons are pretty apparent: the VA is important to them. They desperately need the patients for their various teaching and residency programs. The University likes the faculty salary money that it gets from the government. VA salaries are “hard” money that can be used largely at the discretion of clinical chairmen. The University can place faculty there who cannot qualify for a regular Kentucky medical license. It likes the VA research money that has traditionally been easier to get than NIH money. It likes like having the captive veterans around on which to do commercial drug studies and other research. Like other hospitals in town, University Hospital would like to more easily subcontract for specialty services at its own hospital, or even take over some traditional Veterans Hospital programs. University Hospital by itself does not attract enough of some types of patients to support its training programs. It and the University would clearly benefit from another closer and captive group of patients. No matter where the hospital ends up, I expect to see some maneuvering for access to its patients. Continue reading “New Site for Louisville Veterans Hospital?”