VA Health Care:

Assessment of Surgical Services at Two Medical Centers in the Southwest

HRD-90-6: Published: Dec 14, 1989. Publicly Released: Dec 14, 1989.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Veterans' Affairs (VA) decision to: (1) close the inpatient surgical services at its Prescott, Arizona, medical center; and (2) retain those services at its Big Spring, Texas, medical center.

GAO found that: (1) VA initially agreed with the medical district planning board's and executive council's 1985 recommendations to close the inpatient surgical services at both centers; (2) the Prescott center performed its last inpatient surgery in August 1986; (3) the VA Chief Medical Director deferred action on the recommendation to close the Big Spring center's inpatient surgery services and established a surgical task force to review the closing decisions; (4) VA involved clinicians and managers in the closing decisions; (5) VA primarily considered the centers' past, current, and future work loads in its decisions regarding the inpatient surgical services, including demographic, clinical, and work-load data, which showed a decline in use of such services at the Prescott center and an increase at the Big Spring center; and (6) VA also considered Big Spring area veterans' access to inpatient surgical services and the resulting travel burden from closing the center's inpatient surgical services. GAO believes that the VA decisions regarding the centers' inpatient surgical services were reasonable.

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