Local union reps share concerns with Beckley VA staff shortages

Beckley VAMC
Beckley VAMC(WVVA)
Published: Sep. 23, 2022 at 5:13 PM EDT
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BECKLEY, W.Va. (WVVA) - Representatives with the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) say they are concerned. AFGE represents thousands of VA workers across the State, and they are worried about the future of the VA Medical Center in Beckley.

Robert Estepp, Vice President of the Non-professional unit for AFGE says the hospital is in desperate need of nurses and doctors.

“It’s a crucial time for VA,” he said. “We just survived the Air Commission, so that’s really critical that we keep our Emergency Department open. AFGE feels like this is a method that our administration can use by not fully staffing these critical positions to where our hospital isn’t able to run.”

Laura Bailey, an AFGE union representative in Beckley, says just last week the facility was placed in critical condition due to a lack of medical staff.

“If somebody else would have went out we would have closed....that would have been all inpatient services.

“I’m just disheartened,” Bailey added. “We love our veterans. Nobody takes better care of the veterans than Beckley VAMC. We should be expanding services for our veterans, not taking them down.”

The Beckley VA says it is aware of the staffing issues but denies any allegation of imminent closure.

“Beckley VA Medical Center is not closing its Emergency Department. Our Veterans, who trust VA for their health care needs, rely on these crucial services every day. The Beckley VA Medical Center is working expeditiously with Human Resources to recruit and fill emerging vacancies as they occur throughout the medical center, including any in the Emergency Department.”

WVVA also reached out to Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). Both worked to dismantle the Air Commission this summer. The commission recommended eliminating all in-house medical, emergency, and surgical care at the Beckley VA and building a new facility with more focus on outsourcing treatment.

Below is a statement from U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito:

“The lack of confidence I had in the AIR Commission is exactly why I worked so hard, and was so pleased, to see it dismantled. We should be focused on improving VA facilities, not closing them. Moving forward with closing the Beckley VA is an action that would need considerable local input and careful thought before any final decision is determined.”

Below is a statement from U.S. Senator Joe Manchin’s Press Secretary, Erin Heeter:

“Senator Manchin and his staff continue to monitor this issue closely and are working with all involved parties to ensure our Veterans receive the quality care they need and deserve. The VA AIR Commission is dead, and has been for months, because of Senator Manchin’s commitment to our brave Veterans, and he will continue to advocate for them in West Virginia and Washington.”

WVVA is continuing to follow any developments at the Beckley VAMC.

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