Western South Dakota's Only Ranch Station

V.A. Secretary Wilkie visit Hot Springs, says clinic will remain open

HOT SPRINGS, S.D. – The Secretary of the V.A., Robert Wilkie, was in Hot Springs today, visiting with leadership there, as well as veterans who are served by the clinic.

South Dakota’s congressional delegation helped to set up the visit. The delegation had wanted Wilkie to meet with those who would be personally affected by any decision to close the Hot Springs V.A. Medical Center.

Wilkie says his visit with veterans Monday was very encouraging and he says it’s not going to close.

“That’s the beauty of meeting with veterans. We have the highest patient satisfaction rate the V.A. ever had. They said it’s about 90-percent and that’s evident here. People want to go to a place where they get service from those who understand the culture and speak the language. And that’s why this facility is not going to close.”

Wilkie says they have seen a record number of appointments at the V.A. – 60-million appointments last year – 2 million more than the year before.

South Dakota Senator John Thune says he was pleased with Wilkie’s visit, and was grateful the secretary met with veterans.

“We are encouraged by what we heard today. We think we have a unique, fabulous situation here with a facility that is situated neatly both in terms of geography right here in the Black Hills but also maintining the buildings of the past where our veterans can come and heal and rebuild and recoop.”

Senator Mike Rounds agrees and says keeping Hot Springs open is critical.

“My thank you goes out to them. They have looked at this in terms of what is best for veterans in this part of the country and what they have shared today is very special.”

The proposed closure of the Hot Springs clinic was part of a sweeping V.A. Black Hills planned realignment introduced several years ago.

The delegation and Hot Springs community have been fighting the proposed closure.

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Stu Whitney / South Dakota News Watch

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