No VA hospital for the Valley?

HARLINGEN — It looks like there might not be a need for a veterans hospital in the Rio Grande Valley.

Instead, more private hospitals might become part of the Veterans Administration health care network.

“We should not have to build hospitals where they might not be necessary,” Dr. Richard Stone, the VA’s principal deputy under secretary for health, said yesterday after a press conference at the Regional Academic Health Center.

The Veterans Administration said its work with Rio Grande Valley hospitals has cut in half the denial of veterans’ medical claims in the last three months.

As more health care providers are more rapidly paid, more are expected to join the VA’s network, Hugo Martinez, the VA’s spokesman in Harlingen, said yesterday.

Martinez said that means veterans are expected to get better access to health care.

For decades, many veterans have pushed for a VA hospital in the Valley.

But it’s expected the VA’s improved health care system, with its network of private hospitals, could provide the same services, officials said.

The Valley’s vast, rural landscape would make it difficult to determine a site for a hospital that would force many veterans to drive significant distances to access care, Stone said.

“We could make a decision to build a hospital but this is such a widely-dispersed community,” Stone said. “Where will we build it?”

Meanwhile, efforts to streamline the payment of veterans’ medical claims can help bring more business to struggling hospitals.

Across the United States, about 2,300 hospitals are struggling to stay in business, Stone said after the press conference.

For the rest of this story and many other EXTRAS, go to our premium site,

Subscribe to it for only $6.99 per month or purchase a print subscription and receive the online version free, which includes an electronic version of the full newspaper and extra photo galleries, links and other information you can’t find anywhere else.

More Information

The Veterans Administration provides care to about 22,000 veterans in the Rio Grande Valley.

The VA, working with its partner TriWest Healthcare Alliance along with Valley Baptist Medical Center and Doctors Hospital at Renaissance in Edinburg, cut veterans’ medical claims’ denial rate from 50 percent to 10 percent in the last three months.

Meanwhile, average wait time was 5.14 days for primary care and 13.69 days for specialty care, as of July 31, the most recent information available.