U.S. House ends process that could have closed Northampton VA Medical Center
NORTHAMPTON — The U.S. House of Representatives voted Thursday, approving U.S. Rep. James McGovern’s amendment eliminating a commission that recommended closing the Edward P. Boland VA Medical Center in the Leeds section of Northampton.
The move mirrors action taken last month by a bipartisan group of U.S. senators that halted the restructuring.
Locally, both McGovern, D-Worcester, and U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Springfield, opposed plans to shut the hospital. McGovern, chair of the House Rules Committee, represents Northampton now and Neal, chair of Ways and Means, represented Northampton for two decades. the medical center is named for Neal’s predecessor as Springfield’s congressman.
McGovern’s legislation called the Veterans Administration’s Asset and Infrastructure Review Commission’s process arbitrary and unfair.
“A win for America’s vets who deserve the best care available,” McGovern stated.
In a statement, Neal said, “I was proud to cosponsor an amendment establishing the Southern New England Regional Commission to help bring jobs to communities in western and central Massachusetts, as well as an amendment to eliminate the Asset and Infrastructure Review Commission of the Department of Veterans Affairs. The AIR Commission was responsible for the recommendation that could have led to the closure of the VA Medical Center in Leeds.”
“This is a major victory for central and western Massachusetts, and for veterans across the nation who deserve accessible, high-quality care,” the Springfield Democrat said.
The 105-acre campus in the Leeds section of Northampton, built in 1923, was one of three VA hospitals across the county that would have closed. The other two are in Brooklyn, New York, and Chillicothe, Ohio.
Hundreds of VA clinics across the county would be restructured as part of the plan.
The VA’s plan for Leeds was to relocate its nursing home care and rehabilitation programs to a VA facility in Newington, Connecticut, while transferring outpatient and mental health services to a VA clinic in Springfield and community providers. Officials in the report cited “significant facilities maintenance issues,” as a driving factor for its recommendation for closure
But the plan was bitterly opposed by lawmakers representing the impacted communities.
Roughly 21,000 veterans rely on the Northampton hospital for medical care.
The federal government recently spent $108.4 million to renovate and modernize Leeds and another $93 million in future upgrades are planned.