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Tomah VA center’s future unknown with federal hiring freeze

January 26, 2017

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A congressman from Wisconsin says a new hiring freeze for federal agencies by President Donald Trump’s administration could be especially detrimental to the troubled Tomah Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center.

Trump signed an executive order Monday imposing the hiring freeze across federal agencies, including the VA system, the Wisconsin State Journal (http://bit.ly/2jyjLNQ ) reported.

Democratic Rep. Ron Kind said the move comes amid staffing shortages of health care professionals at VA centers in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

“The fact that one of President Trump’s first actions was to make it harder for Wisconsin veterans to receive quality care and help is simply unacceptable,” Kind said in a statement.

It’s unclear whether the freeze would affect the more than 20 vacancies posted for the Tomah facility. The openings include a physician’s assistant, two nurse practitioners, nine physicians and five other care providers.

Staffing shortages caused the facility to shutter its inpatient psychiatric unit for 10 months in 2015 and 2016, and to suspend admissions to a residential care center.

The VA also cited staff shortages when it cut hours at the Tomah urgent care clinic in 2015. Veterans with emergency medical concerns during the night were forced to go to local hospital emergency rooms, sometimes at their own expense.

The national VA system also has faced considerable trouble in recent years.

In 2014, reports showed veterans were waiting too long to get care and dying before they received help in some cases. The report also showed VA employees at some facilities were falsifying reports to conceal long wait times.

A clinic spokesman referred questions to VA headquarters, which didn’t immediately respond to the newspaper’s request for comment.

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Information from: Wisconsin State Journal, http://www.madison.com/wsj

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